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Jul 21, 2014

Visit If You Dare: The 3 Creepiest Trees In The Philippines

Photo by Kaye Pintac
In the Philippines, the Balete tree is often associated as homes not for just insects, but also for supernatural creatures like tikbalang (demon horse), dwende (elves), kapre (smoking giants), and diwata(fairies).
Urban legend has it that at night, if you drive through Balete Drive in New Manila, Quezon City, a street named after a huge Balete tree that used to stand there in the middle of the road, a White Lady will suddenly appear out of nowhere and try to flag down your vehicle.
But if you really want to get scared, you’ll have to go out to the province and visit these three mystical trees.
At night.
These are not your ordinary trees.
Make sure to bring your camera (or phone) to document any unnatural sightings or suspicious sounds emanating from these mysterious local attractions.

Where is it?

Brgy. Campalanas, Lazi, Siquijor

Why see it?

When in Siquijor, don’t miss the chance to visit this century-old Balete tree. Because of its humungous size and eerie outline, this 400-year old tree easily became a tourist spot in the province of Siquijor.
What makes this Balete tree unique is the spring that emanates from the roots of the tree that goes directly to the man-made pool beneath it. It is interesting to note that the locals don’t know where the water is coming from.
Surprisingly, the water is very clean with fish swimming in it. If you want an instant fish spa, you may even dip your feet into the water and the doctor fish or the garra rufa will gladly exfoliate your feet for you. Everything in here is for free but you may wish to give a donation for the maintenance of the place.
As for hair-raising stories about this ancient tree, locals claim that they have seen old little people or elves surrounding the tree when the moon is full and apparitions during rainy nights. It’s up to you to find out the truth at your own risk.

How do I get there?

Get to Siquijor from Manila by taking a 1-hour flight to Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental and then taking another 1-hour ferry ride to Larena, Siquijor from the Dumaguete Port.
Hire a multicab to bring you to Campalanas where the tree is located. It is 10 meters from Siquijor’s National Highway and just few minutes away from Capilay Spring.

Find out the two remaing Balete trees. Continue Reading HERE

* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com

May 17, 2014

5 Provinces in the Philippines You’ve Probably Ignored But Should Visit

The Philippines has a total of 81 provinces, how many of them have you visited?

Are you the type to stick to the trail and go to the places where tourists usually go, or are you the kind of person who would rather choose adventure, deviate from the norm and take the roads less travelled?

For the curious and adventurous traveler, we put together a short list of Philippine provinces that seriously need more attention.

One of Surigao del Sur’s prides is the Enchanted River in the town of Hinatuan. This entrancing river continues to fascinate tourists and residents alike not just because of its crystal clear water but also because of the many unexplained mysteries that surround it.

It may be reminiscent of Coron’s Kayangan Lake but with its widely spread stories of mystical creature sightings to beautiful fish that can’t seem to be caught, this river has a whole lot of reasons to call itself “Enchanted.”

Not a fan of otherworldly stories? How about this: rivers are generally bodies of fresh water but the Enchanted River has salt water flowing through it. What’s interesting is that there is no visible source of where that salt water is coming from.

While it’s been reported that the river is about 25 meters deep, many still claim that no one has ever reached the bottom of the Enchanted River.

Photo taken from Adrenaline Romance

Another spot that should not be missed when in Surigao del Sur is the Philippines’ “Little Niagara Falls” called Tinuy-An Falls. This three-level white water curtain in Bislig has the widest waterfalls in the Philippines. It’s also said that a rainbow always appears in the area between 9:00 AM to 11:00AM. Definitely another grandeur to behold.

Photo taken by Rawen Balmaña

✈ The easiest route to get to these places in Surigao del Sur from Manila is via a 1.5 hour flight to Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. From Butuan City you can get to either Hinatuan or Bislig by bus with both destinations taking approximately 4 to 5 hours of travel time.

Find out the other remaining province. Continue Reading HERE

* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com

May 11, 2014

Discover These 5 Hidden Beaches in the Philippines Before Everyone Else Does!

As an archipelago with 7,107 islands, you’ll never run out of beaches to explore in the Philippines. Boracay may get mentioned a lot when it comes to Philippine beaches due to its long stretch of powdery white sand but there are other wonderful beaches to see. It just takes a bit of effort getting to them.
If secluded beaches boasting pristine white sand and a gradient of sapphire and emerald water interest you, then prepare yourself for a rugged journey and don’t forget to pack camping gear as well. These hidden paradises may be difficult to reach, but as the saying goes…sometimes the best things in life don’t come easy.
Casapsapan Beach, Casiguran, Aurora

Photo taken by Ian Limbonis

Situated 4-5 hours away from Baler, Aurora, the sleepy town of Casiguran boasts of a long stretch of white sand beaches that gives Boracay a run for its money.
The rough journey to this secret paradise involves a steep trail and a river crossing which you can do in a small vehicle like a tricycle. However, once you set your eyes on the azure water and sink your feet into the powdery sand, you can really tell yourself that the trek was all worth it.
Most of its areas still remain untouched although there are talks about developing this virgin beach. Now is the time to take the opportunity to visit before it gets commercialized.
Find out the other 4. Continue Reading HERE:
* Originally written for and first published on Looloo.com

Nov 24, 2013

Zamboanga: Asia's Latin City (Travel Guide)

Zamboanga is the third largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area. The city of Zamboanga is popularly known as 'Asia's Latin City' because of its hispanic influences in religion and culture. In fact, Chavacano, the main dialect of Zamboanguenos, sounds very much like spanish.

Contrary to what others think, the City of Zamboanga is actually peaceful, although locals do admit that most crime-related incidents here are politically motivated. Thus, if you are just a tourist or traveler who wants to experience the beauty of Zamboanga, then there's nothing to be afraid of. Just be sure to respect their culture, privacy and don't forget to always put that smile on your face.

If you are planning to visit the 'City of Flowers' anytime soon, this 4 days and 3 nights travel guide might help plan your trip.

Photos by Liz ReyesToni Alvarez and Arafat Idanan Basa


Approaching Zamboanga City

By Air: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Pal Express fly daily to Zamboanga City.

Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Hotline: 855-8888 (open 247/7)

Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Hotline: 7020-888 (open 247/7)

Website: www.flyexpress.com
Hotline: 855-9000


Accommodation: There are lots of nice and affordable hotels, pension houses and bed and breakfasts in Zamboanga City. You can opt to stay in a resort 20 minutes away from the city for a more naturey feel or a hotel right in the heart of the metropolis for easier access to the restaurants and nightlife in Zambo.

- Alavar Bed and Breakfast-  Alavar Restaurant, which serves the famous Curacha, operates this bed and breakfast. Alavar Restaurant is just beside this B&B.  (062) 991-2795; (062) 991-2483; 0906-1614747

Don Casa Atilano Pension House- Near Canelar Barter market. (062) 990-1962

Garden Orchid Hotel- This hotel is very near the airport. www.gardenorchidhotel.com
La Vista del Mar- They usually hold vinta rides depending on the number of the resort's guest. 15-20 minutes ride away from the city proper. (062) 991-1208

Lantaka Hotel- Walking distance from Paseo del Mar. (062) 991-2033

Common living room of Alavar B&B
In front of Alavar Bed and Breakfast

Chicken Satti at Jimmy's Satti House
Meal: Food is not really cheap in Zamboanga City. Price of food is almost the same as Manila's. When in Zamboanga, don't forget to try their 'Sati' at Jimmy Sati's House,  Pinoy  Patio Palmeras' Knicker Bucker and Marang, a fruit which belongs to the Durian family and of course, their famous crab called ‘Curacha.’

Touring: One don't really need a tour guide in Zambo City as long as you take note of the directions, or know how to ask the locals. However, you can opt to hire a guide when you want to visit Merloquet Falls or Layag-Layag Community, especially if you want a more convenient trip. You can also visit the City Tourism office of Zamboanga City for more inquiries on tours and they would be more than willing to assist.

Transportation: Means of transportation in Zamboanga City is jeepney and tricycle, although there are also buses that ply from Zamboaga City to its neighboring provinces like Pagadian, Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Minimum jeepney fare is Php7.00 

Zamboanga Airport

* Good for 2 persons for 4 days and 3 nights. (cost may vary if you travel in big group)

- Airfare:  Php 3,000 (promo fare)
- Accommodation: Php 6,000
- Food: Php 2,000
- Tour/Transpo: Php Php 2,000
- Pasalubong and shopping for yourself: Php 2, 000
- Miscellaneous/Contingency: Php 1,000

You need to have: An approximate amount of 16,000 for two persons or Php 8,000/person is already a very safe budget if you were able to score a promo air fare. You may also want a side trip to Basilan province if you have more time.


Day 1

Opt for an early flight to Zamboanga City so you can rest first before you start exploring the city. 

Canelar Barter Market
1st stop: Canelar Barter Market. It is ideal to do your pasalubong shopping on the first day so you would know if you still need to purchase additional check in baggage on your flight back home. There are many barter markets in Zamboanga City but the one in Canelar is the most popular one.  Canelar Barter Market sells products from neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. They have lots of nice and affordable shawls, sarongs, bags and imported chocolates. Shopping at Canelar can be pretty addictive so make sure you mind your budget and start practicing you haggling skills.

Paseo del Mar in the afternoon

2nd stop: Paseo del Mar. This is the 'go to' place for locals and tourists who want  a good food with a good view. Paseo del Mar is like the Harbor View and Manila Bay of Zamboanga City. Watching the sunset while enjoying a refreshing Knicker Bucker or a bottle of beer under the moon light, is probably one of the best ways to cap the night off when in Zamboanga City. The 24/7 security and the well-lighted Paseo will definitely make you feel at ease although I won’t really suggest that you stay outside until the wee hour of the evening unless you have your own car or service.

Paseo del Mar at night
Day 2

Pink Beach
1st stop: Sta. Cruz Island. Sta. Cruz Island or Pink Beach is a small inhabited island in Zamboanga City which is famous for its pink sand. The color of the sand comes from the pulverized red organ pipe coral, which is very abundant in the island, mixed with the white sand, thus, giving the sand a pinkish color. Sand in the Pink Beach is very fine and the water is very clear considering the fact that it’s not too far away from the city and only a short distance boat ride from Paseo del Mar, the jump off point going to the island. Boat rental costs Php1,000 good for 10 people already.

It is advisable to bring your own food and water in the island (just be sure you take home your trash) since there are no sari-sari stores there, although at times, people from the island sell their catch for the day (fish, crabs and squids) to the tourists and are even willing to cook rice for you at a very minimal cost. Cottage can be rented for as low as Php200 for a whole day stay.

Panoramic view of Sta. Cruz Island/Beach

Sunset at Vista del Mar
2nd stop: Vinta ride at Vista del Mar. One of the best places to catch the sunset is at Vista del Mar Resort, a few kilometres away from the city proper. It is accessible via tricycle or jeepney. Aside from the iconic  colorful vinta sail or ‘layag’, that welcomes every guests at the resort, Vista del Mar also offers vinta rides depending on the number of guests that they have. Better call the resort first to inquire if when will they hold a vinta ride. Aside from the breath taking sunset, food at La Vista del Mar is also a must try, aside from Alavar Restaurant in Tetuan, La Vista del Mar also serves the famous Curacha, a
View from Vista del Mar's restaurant
deep see crustacean served with a special kind of sauce. Curacha, by the way, is a spanish word for cockroach. Don’t worry though, Curacha is not a cockroach, they say it just looks like one, although it looks more like a dog tick to me. (Hahaha, sorry to gross you out but it tastes really good).

When the weather is clear, the outlines of the neighboring province of Basilan is also visible from the resort. I was actually tempted to go to Basilan but due to time constraint, I was not able to fulfil that dream. Also, just a stone’s throw away from La Vista is also the Yakan Weaving Village where colorful handwoven cloth, bags, purse, mats, scarves and ornaments in vibrant colors are being weaved and sold. Great place to shop for pasalubong too.

Day 3

Merloquet Falls
1st stop: Merloquet Falls. This has got to be one of the best waterfalls in the Philippines. The dramatic and grandiose cascade falls is definitely a sight to see and a relief after the 15-30 minute trek from the jump off point.  The trek to Merloquet Falls is not very hard although it can be pretty challenging when it’s raining because of the slippery slope and muddy trail so  it is really advisable to wear comfortable clothes like shirts, shorts and hiking shoes/slippers. Remember to pack light and compact as well. Entrance fee to Merloquet Falls is just Php5.00 and you don’t really need a guide just as long as you follow the trail. As of our last visit (July 2013), a cemented stair is now being constructed (although I still prefer it just the way it is) for easy trekking.

Jump off point where you need to pay the entrance fee
Merloquet Falls amid the lush green forest

It's muddy because it's raining
How to reach Merloquet Falls:

  • Hire a private van. Ask the city tourism office at Paseo del Mar if they know one.
  •  For adventurous people, here’s a step-by-step guide how to reach Merloquet Falls:

I. Go to Southway Mall, which is located at the town centre of Zamboanga. Just ask your trike driver to take you there.

II. Across the mall is Sevilla St. where the jeepney terminal is. Ride a jeepney with the signboard “Putik”. Fare is Php9.00 each.

III. Ask the driver to drop you off at Guiwan Terminal or to the bus terminal going to Pagadian City. Airconditioned bus fare is Php125.00 and travel time is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

IV. Tell the conductor to drop you off at  Barangay Vitali.

V. At Vitali checkpoint, which is just along the highway, hire a habal-habal to Merloquet Falls. Fare is about Php50.00

On our way down to Merloquet Falls

Yellow boat
2nd stop: Layag-Layag Community. If you are familiar with the project “Yellow Boat of Hope”, where they give away yellow boats to children who used to walk on chest deep water  surrounded by mangroves in going to and from their school, then most probably you are also familiar with the Layag-Layag Community.

Sitio Layag-Layag is separated from the mainland of Barangay Talon-Talon by mangroves where residents, who only live on stilt houses, are mostly fishermen and seaweed farmers. The only way to reach this community is either you take a 2km walk through the water in the middle of the mangroves if it is low tide or take a 10-15 minute boat ride if it’s high tide. The boats are small so  tipping over is highly possible especially if you don’t know how to balance. If it’s any consolation, there’s really nothing to worry about if the boat tilts because water is very shallow so you won’t drown. Just make sure to secure your gadgets. 

Stilt house at Layag-Layag Community
Aside from the beautiful view of the mangroves and Basilan, getting to know the people of Layag-Layag Community is also very interesting. Please do listen to their stories if you have time, and if you have extra food to give, then please offer them some, although they don’t really ask for one. From what I gathered, they are still in need of more boats.

How to reach Layag-Layag Community:

Like what they say, when in a foreign place, do as the Romans do. Thus, hail a tricycle to take you to Barangay Talon-Talon's barangay hall then ask the Barangay Captain there if someone can take you to Layag-Layag Community. I'm pretty sure they would be willing to ask a local or resident of the community to take you there. Better yet, specifically look for Habib Nursin Asgar, the head of the Layag-Layag Community. He's a very nice man and I'm very sure he'll be happy to take you to the Layag-Layag Community and actually knows best the needs of his community.

On our way to Layag-Layag

Wow! This kid sure knows how to paddle

Day 4

1st stop: Pasonanca Park. The construction of the Pasonanca Park was started during the American regime in 1912 and was completed in the year 1920.  The park is one of the main tourist attractions in Zamboanga City because of the trees, flowering plants, ferns, shrubs and 600 different species of orchids that grows there. The huge park houses three swimming pools, butterfly park, flower garden, museum, science park, freedom park, boy scout  grounds and a personal favorite is the famed Tree House of Pasonanca. Entrance to the park is free of charge although some areas, like the pool, museum and butterfly park has minimal charge.

Swimming Pool is swarming with people
Boy Scout Ground

Photo by Rhea Claire Madarang
2nd stop: Taluksangay Mosque. Taluksangay is the oldest mosque in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula and was built during the 19th century by Hadji Abdullah Mass Nuno and even survived the World War. Since then, Taluksangay Mosque  has become the center of islam influence the Western Mindanao region.


Curacha. Curacha is a deep sea crab that can only be found in the deep waters of Jolo. The Curacha, which is a chavacano term for cockroach, is a high breed crustacean, with a crossbreed characteristics of a large sea crab and a big spiny lobster. Try Curacha with Alavar sauce at the famous Alavar Restaurant in Tetuan. This crab is kinda' pricey at more or less Php1,000/kilo but it's definitely worth it.

Satti. Being close to Sabah, Malaysia, you can find lots of similarities between the Zamboangueños and the Malays, especially when it comes to food. Best example is the satti which is very similar to the Malaysian Satay. Satti is actually a breakfast meal among the locals but satti houses are still swarming with people any time of the day. Satti is a roasted meat (chicken, beef, pork or liver) on a stick served in a thick and semi sweet and spicy orange sauce. You can opt to add rice, or what they also called 'puso' like in Cebu. It looks a bit weird at first, especially with the swimming rice but it's actually good and not to mention, dirt cheap as well. One satti costs Php20.00 while 'puso' is more or less Php8.00-Php10.00

Marang. Marang came from the durian family, but unlike durian, the outer covering of marang is soft especially when fully ripe. The inside of the marang is slimy like durian and atis (sweet sop) and it has a sweet taste that's actually very addictive. Price of Marang can go as low as Php10.00. Take note that the smell of marang is also strong but not really as strong or foul like durian's.

Knicker Bucker. Knicker Bucker is probably the famous dessert in Zambonga City. It is made up of different fruits like mango, watermelon, banana, papaya, gelatin chunks, milk, topped with your choice of strawberry or vanilla ice cream. Definitely the best way to beat the heat after a long day of walking. Get Knicker Bucker at Pinoy Patio Palmeras at Paseo del Mar. Price is approximately Php60.00-Php70.00.

Marimar Sarong. You can find different kinds of sarong at Canelar Barter Market but be sure you get the quality one, brand name is Marimar. Price is more or less Php500.

There's the Marimar sarong

Colorful printed bags. You can find many colorful bags at Canelar but this one really caught my attention. Not only it's beautiful, cute and handy but price is very affordable as well. You can actually get it for Php100 each. Be sure to haggle.