Friday, March 7, 2014

A Bittersweet Moment: Trekking Mt. Pinatubo

After more than 20 years, I've been able to set foot on the crater of the historical Mt. Pinatubo. Honestly, I was reluctant to trek at the said volcano for 2 major reasons: Health and a remarkable Past. I was diagnosed with respiratory asthma when I was a kid, and it's also a fact that you never outgrow asthma. I feared that I might have an attack during the trek due to lahar dust. 

Second, Mt. Pinatubo made a huge impact in my life during my childhood years that made me question myself if I am ready. It became historical because of it's massive eruption last June 1991, which is also considered the second-largest volcanic eruption during the 20th century. Our family was one of those greatly hit and affected by the lahar, a debris flow with a mixture rocks and water. Our whole house and town got buried in lahar 
which forced us to relocate and start all over again. 
Until now, I can still vividly recall the catastrophe that happened. We were awaken by the loud sound of the Town church bell and sirens. Everyone was rushing while I stood on our balcony waiting and wondering what's going on. Suddenly, my jaw started to move involuntarily and uncontrollably. It was the first time I felt so much fear. 
Our whole family stayed on the roof of our Ancestral House during the lahar flow. We were praying so hard while watching other houses get washed away by lahar, which was like a "boiling cement mixture". Our house was spared during the first eruption, only the first floor got affected. However, the second eruption totally buried everything in our hometown. But I was still thankful that my whole family was safe during the calamity. So how's are town now? You can read my blog, click here-->Bacolor: Town Down under your Feet.

One day one of my closest friends, Resy texted me that she'll pay me a visit one weekend. She requested that we visit nearby places aside from my province, Pampanga. She showed great interest to go trekking at Mt. Pinatubo. "OK! This is the sign.", I said to myself. Time to meet the volcano that changed my life. So, I researched and asked some friends about Mt. Pinatubo tour. I tried to email some tour coordinators and checked on the most convenient one for us. I narrowed down my choices and grabbed a good friend's referral. I booked a tour under Poch Jorolan (via 09999948634 or 09175108961) of Outer Eater Tours and Events, also the owner of Everybody's Cafe, a famous restaurant in Pampanga serving Authentic Kapampangan Dishes. This made me excited and giddy for our Lunch. 
Poch was very accommodating considering there were changes on our booking details. We were supposed to book a group tour however some friends had backed out. I requested if we can still push through considering we were only two and if he can just include us in another group. He was able to grant my request, provided a tour on our preferred date, February 16 (Sunday) and even gave us a discount because of a common friend. Thanks again Poch! 
We chose the Tarlac starting point Tour because it's cheaper and we're from Pampanga. On the day of the tour, he met us around 5:30am at Lakeshore, North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) first and had a convoy going to Capas, Tarlac since we're not familiar with the place. We also met other travelers in our group tour, a solo American guy and a Family. So how did the tour go?

What to expect?
The trek to Mt. Pinatubo involved riding a 4x4 and a long walk. The 4x4 ride was a grueling hour and a half. We passed on rivers, lahar formations, big rocks and bumpy roads. You need to tighten your grip to survive the adventure and also expect too much lahar dust. We passed on the Old route because the New road got severely damaged during the Typhoon Yolanda. Therefore, the 20 minutes walk or trek to the crater became another hour and a half. It involved crossing rivers with huge rocks, steep and slippery roads. The tour duration is usually from 8am until 2pm, which includes the 4x4 ride from Brgy. Sta Juliana in Capas (jump off point), trek and lunch at the crater. There are also available shower rooms at the base camp. 

NOT Mountains sign must be placed here. Yes, these are Lahar Formations! Huge lahar formations out there, no wonder it almost erased a whole town in the Map.
Stop-over for some Picture taking. Our group together with the natives, the Aetas. "Kuya" (Tagalog term used to refer to an older man or Guide) warned us to prepare for the topsy turvy ride. 
Manong Driver checking engine for safety. This ride surely looks old and rusty but still rocked the off road adventure. If it can talk, it'll probably say I am still BAD Boy on the road. You almost scared us to death! 
This will be your view during most of the trek. Hello Biggie-O rocks! 
And also some of this view. Oh Mother Nature, you truly are amazing. Depicting the "Ferngully: the Last Rainforest" aura, if you are familiar with the movie you'll definitely agree with me. 
The sulfur coming from the volcano turned some parts of the river and the rocks yellow orange in color.
Are we there yet? This question kept running in my mind during the trek. Oh well, 20 more minutes. Getting there in a jiffy! 
Group Picture!
No we're not yet there! 100 plus steps going down the crater. Can you just imagine the way up? Aaaaaaaaaaaah, I almost fainted. 
Of course MUST not miss a SOLO with Tshoes. 
The crater of the Volcano. Isn't it Amazing? There's always Beauty in everything.
My first and forever travel buddy, Resy!
 We did it twin! Looking forward for more Crazy Adventures with you. 
DITTO! Travel shoes and I are definitely leaving some "shoeprints" everywhere. Off to more adventures and beyond!
Lunch, Oh lunch! 
Because I am a Girl Scout, ready for some picnic at the crater!
The food was HEAVENLY! It satisfied our rumbling tummies and our tastebuds. 

I almost forgot to take a quick picture of the food served, so you'll have an idea what to eat in case you book a tour with Outereater Tours.
Almost empty containers! We ate Adobong Puti (Chicken dish), Paco Salad (Fern), Chicharon (Pork skin) and some atchara (pickled unripe papaya) as side dish. And we partnered it with Cold Coca-Cola sold at the crater at 100 bucks. I won't complain on this knowing the effort they exerted going to the crater.  

Travel Shoes leaving shoeprints at the beautiful crater. Finally Mt. Pinatubo, we met.
Swimming and boating are no longer allowed at the crater due to a past incident. How I wished I was able to see the other side and the Hot Spring. Oh well. 
We want you!
A good looking buddy sporting my favorite color. You SHOULD be our ride. (Loud Chuckle!)

The weeks of physical conditioning paid off, thanks to Yoga and my scarf. Another destination conquered and survived!  
Don't we just look good together?
Oh the shades of Blue. 

MUST Bring:
1. Water- you might get dehydrated and too exhausted during the trek.
2. Big Scarf- it will protect you from dust and too much heat. 
3. Sarong- same use as the scarf, plus you can use it for picnic purposes. Just like what we did at the crater. I always bring a scarf or sarong during all my travels because they are so helpful and I can use them in so many ways. You just need to be creative.
4. Snacks- the trek made me so hungry even after lunch. We munched on some cookies and chips on our way to the crater and back. 
5. Sunblock- you'll be exposed from the heat and there's rarely a shade. 
6. Long sleeves or Jacket- these will help you avoid having unwanted or uneven tan lines. During our trek it helped provide warmth because it was so windy and cold. 
7. Sturdy and Reliable foot wear- My travel shoes did a great job during my trek. I suggest you wear shoes rather than slippers. You can avoid getting wet but you can't avoid rocks and sharp objects you can encounter during the trail. Safety always! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Leaving Shoe Prints: Halong Bay, Vietnam

This photo was taken during our cruise trip in Halong Bay, Vietnam last September 2012. 

I called our trip the "Instant Millionaire Getaway" due to the money currency in Vietnam plus the pampering we got. It was surely one of the most spoiled trips I had but still pocket-friendly. We rented a junkboat, a local yacht, during our cruise from Cat Ba-Halong Bay via CatBa Ventures owned by the ever reliable Mr. Tung. In our private junk boat we had our own Captain, Butler and Chef. It has two rooms with bathrooms, dining room and also a sun deck, which is still quite spacey for the five of us. All the food served in our junkboat were sumptuous. We also just can't get enough of their coffee "Cafe Viet". The best cafe viet we've ever tasted during our entire stay in Vietnam. 

This photo captured the perfect moment I had during our sail in the famous Halong Bay. I am grateful I had the chance to savor the Beauty of Nature while sipping the Best Coffee in town. Travel shoes and I surely had that perfect spot, another add on in my memory and experience bank. The kind of ecstasy your heart feels every journey is definitely priceless. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Leaving Shoe Prints: Cabugao Island, Isla Gigantes, Carles, Iloilo

I feel blessed and grateful that i was able to witness the beauty of this Island before it got totally ruined by the typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November 2013.

Summer of 2013 (May), travel shoes left some shoe prints at Isla Gigantes also known as an "Enchanted Island". It is located at Carles, Northern part of Iloilo, Philippines. 

Many stories and folk tales revolve around this mystical but splendid place. According to legends, long ago some feared that going to this island might mean, never coming back.  
It was also believed that the island was first inhabited by "Giants" hence its name "Isla Gigantes". Fossils and giant coffins measuring around 7 feet long were found inside the caves of some islands. Recently, the place is freely explored by locals and also some tourists because of its pristine and crystal clear white sand beaches. Isla Gigantes is composed of many different islands, each boasting a unique and majestic beauty. 

The photo was taken in Cabugao Gamay Island, one of my favorite spots. It is divided into huge rock formations and white sand beach. The climb at the top was quite challenging and daunting BUT the view at the peak was impressively beautiful. I am glad that I was able to conquer another place together with my Travel Shoes. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Beyond Happy: Korea Winter Photo Contest

Last December, a colleague of mine gave a piece of article from Philippine Star Newspaper. It was about the Korea Winter Photo Contest. She kept the article because she saw that I just visited Korea and she loved our photos from our recent trip. I felt really touched with her gesture and encouraging words. 

I was hesitant at first to join because the theme was about "winter" and during our visit it still looked like autumn season. But our travel dates were a part of the contest's time frame. I was really unsure what photo entry I can submit to depict "winter season'. But still I gave it a shot. 

I got really nervous because it was my first time to join a "photo contest" like this one. Oh well, aside from the mini contest held during my high school years. Nevertheless, I got too excited as well because I've always loved photography. I love taking pictures and cameras really fascinate me.I used a Nikon D3000 with an 18-55mm stock lens. Is it a sign to upgrade my lens? haha 

I passed my entry on the 6th of December and it was so hard for me to choose which entry. I was able to narrow down my choices into two. I asked some friends to help me  pick my final entry. And thankfully, my photo entry was accepted after so many revisions due to strict requirements.

On January 9, 2014, I received an email from the Korea Tourism Organization, Manila stating that my photo was chosen on the Top 40 list. I felt really happy that they were able to appreciate my photo. It was truly an unexpected surprise for me. The best part of the email was; "Your photo will be exhibited in the Korean Cultural Center. You will receive a separate notification if your entry is included in the Best 5 photos." Honestly, The photo exhibition itself was enough to make my heart oh-so-happy. I got so giddy with the thought that I will be seeing a blown-up picture of my work on Display. 

I didn't expect more and I felt really blessed already with the news that I've received. 
On the following day, I got another email from them stating that my photo was part of the Top 5, Silver Award. 
It was one "BEYOND HAPPY" moment for me. It was a surreal feeling at first. All smiles to know that other people get to appreciate the thing that you love doing. I call my Korea trip, a lucky one. I got to enjoy the place and their culture, do my passion: photography and travel, and lastly got some really good perks out of my trip (gift cards, glass trophy, LG mobile printer, be part of the photo exhibition). It was definitely oh so worth it. Now my passion for photography, travel and culture fueled a lot more. 
I got a thankful and a blissful heart for all the blessings. Definitely an EPIC way to start my 2014. Can't wait for more travels and unexpected surprises (hopefully my luck doesn't end here.) 

Thank you Korea Tourism Organization Manila for the opportunity and for appreciating my work. Thank you as well to Korea Cultural Center Manila for the photo exhibition chance. I am really amazed on how the Koreans really preserve and share their culture. So many more places to explore in Korea. 

I am such a Happy Lass! 
A photo together with my entry and awards last  January 20, 2014.  I wanted to caption it: "Love and Pray: Locking Love Promises and Wishes at the Love Tower (N Seoul Tower) and Saying a Heartfelt Prayet that they may come True (Temple). 
Gamsahabnida KTO and KCC!

Photo Exhibition: "Remembrance of the bygone days" at the Korea Cultural Center. January 20-27, 2014. 

Because I missed the Hanbok fitting during my stay in Korea. The closest to wearing it is a picture together with Korea's Traditional Dress.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Biking Destinations Around Asia

I love biking ever since I was a kid. It really gives me that ecstatic kind of feeling after every ride. 
I can still vividly recall my hard work, wounds and accidents back in my childhood years just so I can pedal a bike, balance and go further. And yes, all those battle scars were worth it. 
Until now, my love for biking never fades. Biking always gives me a different perspective about life and the places i see. It gives me an opportunity to slow down, see the world in an open space, savor every moment and lastly, provides a good exercise to the heart. These i believe contribute to the state of euphoria I am in after every biking experience. 

Every time I travel, I always try to check if I can go biking in my chosen destination. And luckily I was able to bike even away from home. Each biking trip I had was really unique and different. I compiled places around Asia where you can go biking with a group or even solo. I am hoping that I can add more to this list.

1. Singapore
 I had my first biking experience away from home during my solo travel in Pulau Ubin, Singapore.
Contrary to the Busy Singapore, this part is very laid back. It's a small island located North East of Singapore and also known as the last "kampong" village, imagine Singapore years back before tall buildings and busy streets sprouted. Biking in Pulua Ubin was like a scene in the famous "Back to the Future" film.

Bike Rental Cost: $6-$12/ whole day rental

Sights to See:

One of my favorite spots and it was really breathtaking. I called this the "Blue Lake". 

It was so hard to say goodbye to this Island and view. I am grateful to have witnessed this spectacular view. 

Well, a picture with my bike and travel shoes is a MUST. Thankful for my mini-tripod. 

You can read more about my adventure: Biking Around Singapore

 2. Thailand
Remember the famous "Temple Run" game? I call this next biking experience, "Temple Biking". Yes, it was like a temple run experience but on a bike. Can you guess what you'll see in this place? 
Ayutthaya, Thailand has a very rich culture. It is considered as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Biking in Ayutthaya is a bit challenging and risky compared to Pulau Ubin. In here, you'll bike around busy streets meaning 8 lane roads, hello monster buses and gentle giants. I was glad I braved and survived one hell crazy biking adventure.

Bike Rental Cost: 20 baht/ whole day

Sights to see:

One of the Temples (Wat), you'll see during the trip. Temples were everywhere. 

The famous "Buddha in the Tree". 
Another MUST photo with my bike and travel shoes. Oh hello there Dumbos! 

You can read more about my adventure: Biking Around Thailand.
3. Korea
Being born and raised in a tropical country where there are only 2 seasons, this biking trip really made me so exhilarated. I was able to explore and bike around Nami Island, South Korea during Autumn Season. I felt blessed to have witnessed another impressively beautiful nature. 
Nami Island is a small half-moon shaped Island. It became a popular tourist attraction because it showcases different scenes every season and also the shooting location of the famous Korean Drama Series, Winter Sonata. 

Bike Rental Cost: KRW 6,000/ 30 minutes. (The bike rental was expensive compared to the others but you can tour the whole island by 30 minutes. However, capturing photos will take your time because every spot is great for picture taking.)

Sights to see:

Showcase of colors. Let your eyes feast.
Because Winter Sonata became so sensational, a monument of the lead characters was built. Welcome to "The Island of Love". 
Every corner of the place was picture perfect so I  grabbed the opportunity. I am forever grateful that I can see and travel. 
Bike, travel shoes and Autumn= Beyond Happy Moment. 

Where to go biking next? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

HELP and PRAY for Philippines

     Only a few weeks after the Philippines was badly affected by a strong earthquake. Philippines is again facing another ordeal. Severe damage and many lives lost due to typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), recorded as the strongest typhoon in the world. 

     We are asking for your prayers and help for the families of those greatly affected. Prayers and sympathies are greatly appreciated but more than these, they (my Fellow Filipinos) need our help. I tried to compile pictures from different websites and news files of the aftermath of the storm Yolanda. I also compiled the list of where we can send our help, a little amount or anything is a Big Help. Let's work together as a nation.  We (Fellow Filipinos) are thankful for all the support and help given by different countries.

Disclaimer: All the photos posted are not mine and compiled for the purpose of helping the victims of the typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). 
Full Credits to all the owner of the photos. 

Some Places Greatly Hit By the Typhoon. 

The Aftermath.
Tacloban Leyte: (C) Inquirer 
Guian Town, Samar: (C) AFP Photo Ted Aljibe

Northern, Iloilo: (C) ABS CBN Iloilo

How can you HELP?
If you are from Philippines or Abroad and want to help please check the all the list below. I compiled some List of Institutions accepting Donations. 
(Gathered from different websites)


Links: (Please Click the Links Below)
Compiled by (Local and Abroad)
Compiled by Yahoo Philippines

International (Please Click the Links Below)
International Institutions compiled by
Canadian Redcross

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thought Corner: Why You Should Consider Traveling SOLO?

Yes I love traveling. Yes I am a Female. And Yes I travel SOLO.
Sometimes it's fun to go mainstream. 
Being tourist-y in Singapura's Hop-on/Hop-off bus. It's always good to be back. 
People are always weirded out whenever they learn and hear that i travel solo and yes love it too!  Oh wait, May I just say that I feel happy now because finally my family and close friends understand my passion for travel and when i go solo. Well, not totally agree with me BUT now there's less violent reaction. 

Ok so why do I travel SOLO and encourage you to do so as well?

My first solo travel happened almost 3 years ago. Singapore was my chosen destination. You can read more about it HERE. Yes it wasn't easy for me because I had a hard time convincing my parents. I scheduled it during my birth month so I'll have a good excuse and yeah, it worked out well. The perks you get on your birthday. Oh yeah!
If you're gonna ask me what I gained from it? Well, A LOT. I'm proud to say it changed me. 

In Solo traveling...

1. You might be Surprised on How much You Can DO. Being solo especially in other places outside your comfort zone teaches you to be more independent, deepens self trust and confidence, challenges your critical thinking skills and unleashes your NEW self. Yes, I DO mean all those things written above. When you go SOLO, all you have is yourself and no one but yourself to decide on everything in order to survive your planned travel. You will be pushed to your limits during unavoidable times like getting lost in unfamiliar places, unleashes that inner confidence to converse to strangers (because traveling involves a lot of communication), and Yes imagine a BOOST on your Confidence after a Successful travel and BIG Credit to of course, YOURSELF. A different feeling of self accomplishment. 
Have you heard that according to studies, travelers find it easier to interact to people during social gatherings or situations compared to others?
Hmmmmm says a lot about Positive Self-Esteem right? 

2. You Meet and Gain a Lot of NEW Friends. Traveling in a group is fun. I also travel most of the time with friends and family. But sometimes the disadvantage is you limit yourself with the same crowd. You lessen the chance to get to know more about the people in that certain place and to learn more about their culture. Sometimes through interaction with the locals or other travelers, you get to know more about their culture that broadens your knowledge about each one's differences and why people act this way and that. And yes, I am proud to say that I've met many of my good friends now during my Travels. You can establish and build new connections in every place you go and that certain place might be your home away from home. You'll see the world in a different way, you'll see and feel that YES there are still so many good people vs. what we see on the news (re: crimes). You'll appreciate and see a lot of random act of kindness from strangers around you. But learn to trust your instincts as well. 

3. You Feed Your Soul. POWER of MEDITATION.  Traveling Solo can also be a form of meditation. When you are solo, there will be a lot of chances where you'll be caught up drowned in your own thoughts. Flashbacks, A vision of what you wanna BE and DO on your future or maybe just enjoy your NOW while you're in a train ride going to your next destination. Submerged into Nothing but your own thoughts and reflections, listening to no one but your own self which in turn strengthens your inner self-awareness. In our busy schedule with work nowadays and other stuff, when was the last time you listened to yourself? When was the last time you heard that "voice within you"? During meditation we detach ourselves from reality for a while and we learn to embrace our "wholeness". We learn to feel and really listen to our hearts and provide more space for great ideas to come. Yes, a time to reflect and re-create self. You'll feel more relaxed, happier and calmer. I really feel reinvigorated after every solo travel. Ready to face anything again with a bolder heart. Let me share some thoughts I had during another Solo Travel, La Union, Philippines: More than just a Surfing Spot

Yoga in Maldives
A Solo traveller must master the skill of Timed Shots And equip themselves with monopod or tripod. 
Taking this shot wasn't easy but upon seeing it... All worth it!

4. You Become OPEN MINDED. Definitely NO to BIGOTRY. An Open Mind is what you learn to exercise from traveling in general. That's why I really encourage people to start packing their bags and go! Doesn't mean international right away. A visit to a nearby town is already traveling away from the world or routine you've created. You'll see that the world is way different outside your own world. That there are a lot of people luckier or less privileged than you; a lot of problems bigger than what you are ranting for days; a lot of differences in culture and places; and a lot of things to be thankful for. You'll understand more why certain people act this way or that. Maybe, just maybe, you'll see and live your life differently from before. Traveling changed me a lot. I learned to appreciate (more) every bit of me and what i have (contentment). So before you leave any negative comments about other people, do you really know why they act that way? Before focusing on negative things in your life, maybe there are more things to be grateful for? 

5. You Create a Great Investment. The rewards you gain from it are priceless. Furthermore, the life lessons you get from traveling especially SOLO lasts a lifetime compared to mundane things. Traveling shapes you to be a Better, Wiser and Stronger person depending on how you accept and embrace each valuable experience and lesson. As for me, I always try to see through the goodness in things. 
I definitely disagree whenever I hear some people say that traveling is just a WASTE of money. I think it all depends on how you perceive things and how you use them in favor of you. When you buy fancy things, Yes you experience happiness BUT short-lived. When you buy a travel ticket, you are investing on yourself and on an experience that may totally change you. Experiences weigh more than tangible things. Great and inspiring experiences leave an imprint in your heart that will definitely last a lifetime and can be surely passed on from one generation to another. When time comes that I'll have kids of my own, I'm gonna share all my wonderful travels to them and teach them that they may see the true Beauty in the World and Life. 
May I just add, a lot of really Successful people (self-made people) traveled the world before they became Successful or More Successful. The Ideas you get when traveling are Infinite.  

6. You are FREE.
Yes, you get much freedom during solo travels. You're FREE to: follow your own pace or time, make your own itinerary (IT) and visit all the places you love, plus eat and sleep anywhere you want without having to worry about others. Moreover, you are also FREE from stress, rush and conflicts which may arise at times when you travel with a group.  Sometimes when we travel, we just need to sit back, relax and savor the experience without any ITs, no time pressure, and just…. get lost for a moment. The best travel experiences are sometimes the unplanned ones. So don't be scared to go out of your comfort zone, and be ready to embrace the unknown. It might be an experience of a lifetime. So pack your bags and just go! 

Surely I can add-up a lot more to this list but for now let me leave you with 6. 

Some Things To Keep in Mind:

When traveling solo, SAFETY should be your first priority. Try to research about the place and people, the DO's and DON'Ts beforehand. 
I always get the number of the hotel (and inform the front desk) or Police Station in case of Emergency. Plan some important things well and Be ALERT all the time. 

And yes, traveling doesn't have to be lucrative. For tips on how to travel cheaply you can also read my blog: I CAN Travel, You CAN Travel TOO: 10 Tips on How to Travel Cheap

Solo Biking in Maldives.
I stayed for a night in one of the islands where the locals live so I can get to know more of their culture. 
It was so fun! 
A Date with my favorite person, Self.
I usually spend my "ME" time pondering about a lot of things. I fell in love with the place and the food, ah heavenly. 
This is one of the restaurants in Kurumba Resort in Maldives and it's so hard not to fall in love with this place, hence Maldives is every Honeymooners' dream. 

So serene and private. 
Who wouldn't love it here? I had a hard time bidding goodbye, Maldives. 

Gardens by the Bay
I am the "Little Princess" surrounded by Baobab trees. 

Taken during my First Solo Travel in 2010. National Orchid Garden in Singapore. Thankful for mirrors. 

Meet my New Friend Mrs. Pecker.
The Perks of Going Solo in Universal Studios Singapore? I was able to have lots of photos with the stars, others got strictly one picture each only then you'll hear: Neeeext on cue no more take two's! haha 
MIRROR! Oh well, there's only one thing to do. haha
 Very rare chance to capture that picture perfect moment during Solo travels especially when always on the Move. Biking at Pulau Ubin, Singapore. 
Back in one of my favorite local destinations, La Union and another Solo Travel. 
Yes, I lived here during my stay in La Union. Hostel living and loving it.