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My Baguio-Nueva Ecija Trip: How The Last Weeks Of My December 2018 Went (A Super Late Post)

December 15 – 19, 2018

Going to Baguio City after like… 18 years?; and to Nueva Ecija was one of the most unforgettable and fun things I did with my roommates unexpectedly.


If only I knew we’d go here, I would have recreated these photos. 😂

I was just lying on my bed; wanting one hell of a long sleep, when my former roommate, Cherry, asked me to tag along to Baguio City. I’m not sure why that was, but I honestly didn’t feel like going. It was also one of my best friends’ baby shower happening that night, and I was also tasked to drop by at work before starting on January 2nd. So yes, all I wanted to do that morning was to sleep!

I was then talked out of my senses when Cherry and Jessica – my roommates – convinced me to finally tag along. Eventually, I said “yes” with us, having different agenda in the afternoon at first (I went to my soon-to-be new job, and my best friend’s baby shower and gender reveal, while the two of them went thrift shopping at Baclaran).

Before dusk, we also went to Mary Kay Makati where I officially became a Mary Kay Philippines Beauty Consultant. My certification was done the week after. You can read more about my MK Experience here.

At 8 PM, I went to my best friend, Ery’s, baby shower and gender reveal along with our college friends. I honestly didn’t know we’d be off to Baguio City at midnight. I was just texted we’d go after my mini-gathering with college friends. 😂

I thought we were leaving for Baguio the next day, I didn’t know it was going to be that night! So when we arrived at midnight in QC, we immediately packed all our stuff and went to Baguio. Cherry rented a van that time.

Here’s our back-to-back Baguio-Nueva Ecija Escapade on December 2018

Baguio City Itinerary

We went to check-in at Albergo, one of the most finest-looking hotel in Baguio. I swear, this was too beautiful for a hotel! It’s like a condo-type hotel with a complete set of furniture and kitchen utensils.

The bed was a cool double-decker where Jessica and I slept at the bottom bunk. It has drawer-like beddings underneath the queen-sized bed (bottom bunk), so if there was a need for an extra, say, a companion; (but of course we wouldn’t just let the driver sleep where we sleep), it can just be pulled out!

At lunch, we went to eat at Good Taste Restaurant where the food served were merely lutong bahay (home-cooked viands) and gulay (vegetables). Yum! 😋

In the afternoon, we went to Strawberry Farm to see some strawberries…

… and sunflowers…

And then proceeded to The Mines View where I did me some horse-riding… 😂

… and a dramatic pose on the view uphill… 😂 LOL! 😆

Then we went to The Mansion at almost 6 PM…

And finally the next day, at the famous Burnham Park…

It was freezing cold in Baguio City and some folks even told us it was ‘sunnier’ that time. Meaning, it could have been colder if we went some other day. 😨😂

I’m not sure how you can go to Baguio City via bus as we rode a Montero that time, but here’s a bit of information on how to get there via commute and/or private transport:

Via Commute

  1. Go to a Victory Liner bus in Manila bound for Baguio City. You can either ride from Pasay, Cubao and/or Caloocan. Regular fare is 450 Php (depending on the bus company).

Via Private Transport

  1. Take the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) going to the SCTEX from Manila at Exit 85.
  2. Drive from SCTEX to Tarlac City, then turn left to a road.
  3. Continue driving until you reach Mc Arthur Highway.
  4. Turn right, drive continuously along Tarlac City roads and Pangasinan province until you reach Rosario, La Union.
  5. From Rosario, La Union junction, turn right to Kennon Road.
  6. Turn right again to Marcos Highway.
  7. That’s all the way to Baguio City. Just drive along!

Nueva Ecija Itinerary

Okay – so I’m not sure what happened AGAIN, but we all impulsively thought of going to Nueva Ecija as part of our roommate’s “job.” I’m not sure what she does honestly, all I knew was that we went there as well to have fun.

We arrived at around 9 PM and went straight to Villa Liza Resort and Restaurant to stay in for the night. Aside from having dinner, we went straight to sleep.

Mornings in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija be like…

… and BREAKFAST! 😍

Fried sunny-side up eggs, longganisa, and corned beef for breakfast

After breakfast photos be like…

And of course, by the pool-side…

I can’t give full directions on how to get there since we were using a rented car to go straight ahead. But here’s what I was able to get a hold of:

Full Address: Villa Liza Resort and Restaurant, Aurora Rd., Bongabon Nueva Ecija
Contact Number: 09494095323 / 0917 710 9600

We should be getting back to Manila by Monday morning but things got out of hand, and my former roommate asked if we could stay one more day. I forgot what the reason was, but the extended stay on Monday was spent going to Pantabangan Dam.

I looked chubby-AF there, though. 😂

Just by looking at this picture, the sunset with nature just feels serene-AF for me. It’s very heart-warming! I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but this picture looks peaceful. ❤🍃

Not to mention a VIEW with the waters feels divine! 😍 I am very in love with everything that is Pantabangan Dam (I am a super fan of the ocean, so waters like these make my soul feel good)! 😍💖

We extended ANOTHER night after Monday, as we went straight to Minalungao National Park after leaving Bongabon, Nueva Ecija for some sightseeing and exploration on Tuesday morning.

The view at Minalungao National Park was super amazing, I bet this is the REAL AND BEST highlight of our impulsive trip!

Here are some of my photos in Minalungao National Park

I posed like I was owning it. Hell-yeah! Haha. 😂

And this view? Dang! It’s a must-see! 😍

This one’s across the river near the cave. My other roommate, Jessica, and I would have gone to the caves if only dogs didn’t run after her that time! Hahaha! I literally ROTFL-ed that time as she even went to HUG a random stranger out of fear. 😂

Everyone was laughing including me! 😂😆

Here we are (with me overcoming my fear of heights), as we took our picture in the middle of the HANGING BRIDGE! 😂

And here’s me, and well… my favorite purple socks! 😂😆

If only we had one more day to stay, we would have seized it as there were TONS OF OTHER ACTIVITIES you can do here at Minalungao National Park:

  • Bamboo rafting and swimming
  • Walk the hanging bridge
  • Hike and/or Trek
  • Go Zipline!
  • Cliff Dive
  • Spelunking/Caving
  • And many many more! 😍

To get here via commute (because I wasn’t able to keep track of how our private transport went)

  1. Ride a bus from Cubao or Pasay (whichever is near to you) going to Gapan or Cabanatuan. Travel time is 3 hours. Fare is 150-200 Php, but I’m not sure if this still hasn’t changed.
  2. Afterward, ride a jeep to General Tinio.
  3. Then, ride a tricycle going to Minalungao Park. Fare is 50 Php.

You also have an option of riding a tricycle from Gapan to Minalungao park, but that’s around 500-800 Php at 1.5 hours average.

We eventually went home on Tuesday evening after all the extended travels.

To be completely honest, going on with this impulsive trip had caused me my work ethic. I went absent for so many days at work (I was on a pre-resign state that time), and I literally didn’t go to work on purpose anymore out of guilt. Hahaha! I know, I know. It was my bad as this wasn’t a good idea; I should have resigned properly yada-yada-yada (I swear it wasn’t as ‘easy’ as you think… but I also swear I won’t do that again)… but I won’t trade this soul-searching experience for a 9:30 PM – 6:30 AM job that only elevated my severe depression during (hence my short hiatus on blogging for almost 3 months).

This experience helped me breathe and find myself again. And I must say it is indeed true that ‘traveling’ really opens up your soul for brand new things to see. Traveling is really food for the soul; so when one tells you this, you’ve got to believe them as it did me.

Despite the judgment I’ve gotten for what I did for the first time, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity where I got close to healing. I wouldn’t trade this experience of healing my soul over some judgment that, “I don’t have a ‘proper’ work ethic” because THIS EXPERIENCE was what healed me from a job that only made my depression worse (throwing some shade aside).

This experience and opportunity opened up my eyes to ways on how I can deal with my deteriorating mental state moving forward. It’s not just about ‘traveling’ per se, although that’s part of it. It’s about the lessons, divine interventions, learnings, and growth along the way.

Ergo… every risk was worth it! 😊💖

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My Unexpected, Last-Minute Calaguas Island Escapade: The Cool Things We Did On The Island

Believe it or not, I’m not a fan of traveling… although I’m a huge fan of oceans.

Don’t hate me, though. I just hate the feeling I get whenever I know I’d be sitting back for long, tiring hours. Not to mention the fact that it would be so uncomfortable to sleep around during the whole trip.

My travel to Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte was… let’s say, “Unexpected.” I was with a friend eating porridge at Biggs’ Diner, Albay when he asked me if I wanted to tag along. I was heartbroken back then, and he [my friend] thought that I should free my mind off my heartaches during the weekend. When I asked who was tagging along, he said they were his long-time friends. At first, I was a bit hesitant about joining because I’m kind of introverted. I was shy, plus I really wanted to just sulk in my bed and cry over the weekend.

He was persistent then. But eventually, I did come to my senses and went with him last minute, thus meeting these new cool people.

Hooray for new friends!

calaguas island vacation

Photo credits to my friend, Shanti. The reason I was actually part of this island trip. LOL.

It was the night of June 13th when we, along with these new friends, decided to have a night trip at 8 o’clock going to Paracale, Camarines Norte. It was fun. That was actually my very first road trip in my 22 years of existence. Aside from making new friends, I was able to experience a few firsts like learning how to play cards, “traveling” with a real tour guide, trekking, snorkeling, and many more.

We got there at the seaport around 2 AM, which was quite early. We waited for a few more hours to have breakfast, rode a 2-3 hour boat ride going to the island at 7 AM, and settled around 9 AM.

calaguas island travel

Paracale, Camarines Norte Seaport

Well, to be honest, I slept it through the entire boat ride. LOL. But when I got up 30 minutes before we hit the island, I saw amazing rock formations, beautiful, small islands, and huge mountain tops.

calaguas island vacation

This picture’s supposed to be “LIVE,” but oh well. LOL.

Fast forward to the get-go of the vacation, we arrived there at Calaguas Island around 9-10 AM. New friends gathered around to set up their tents, some went on to play some card games, and me?

Well, I just took a good shower. LOL.

calaguas island

Photo credits to Shanti.

It was nearly lunch time and to tell you honestly, the food was amazing!

Here are some of the foods we had… to specify some.

calaguas island

Well, this one’s our Day 3 lunch: Chicken curry, Calamari rings, and Gulay na Santol (Bicolano cuisine).

calaguas island

This is called, Gulay na Santol. One of the most prominent Bicolano cuisine where the Sandor/wild mangosteen/cotton fruit (Sandoricum koetjape) is minced and cooked in coconut cream with pork and chili.

I think this photo was taken during our first-day lunch. Haha. ?

Without further adieu, here are the cool things we did during our stay on the island, even if I’m not a fan of traveling myself:

Day One: Trekking

calaguas island

Believe it or not, I was complaining how exhausted and bummed I was back there with my shorts wet while trekking.

That pose? Stolen.

calaguas island

And so… before we hit the top part of the hill, there’s that cute little waiting shed that looks like a house… or so I think.

calaguas island

And there I was… with the amazing view as my background… never thinking how AMAZING this whole trekking thing was. Like, how wasn’t I fan of traveling and all these stuff?! LOL!

calaguas island

And, of course… my “victory” pose. LOL. Look how wet that short is!

Overall, if you’re a fan of nature, the crystalline waters, and the soothing waves of the sea, then Calaguas Island is for you.

calaguas island

Day Two: Island hopping, Snorkeling

Before we headed to our next activity the next morning (i.e. island hopping), we rode on a boat first at around 9 AM going to this island that’s just as stunning as its view!

calaguas island hopping

And yeah, we took pictures…

calaguas island hopping

The island was just amazing, even I was REALLY FASCINATED with what mother nature has offered!

calaguas island travel

Afterward, we just went snorkeling. Funny story, we were told not to do this anymore due to high tide. Our tour guide thought it would be risky, but meh, new friends were daredevils! Haha.

calaguas island snorkelling

Now, I hate and refuse to admit this, but I was the only one there who didn’t know how to swim! ? Unlike my new friends who were actually good at it, there’s me, always appreciating the seashore and the white sand beach.

calaguas island white sand

Meanwhile, I took the risk either and joined them in this snorkeling activity that made me dive deep into the waters at about 50,000 feet (exaggeratingly)! I deserve a slow clap. LOL! Haha

calaguas island snorkeling

Since this island is one of the few gems of the Bicol region, here’s how you can get here even if you’re traveling alone, far away from Bicol, Philippines, or just want some plain directions:

From Manila…

  1. Book a bus (from Cubao or Pasay) or plane ticket going to Naga City. Travel time via bus is 8 hours, the plane is more or less 30-45 minutes. The terminal going to Daet is just at the back of SM City Naga mall.
  2. From Naga City, ride a UV Express Van going to Daet or take a bus. Since we were on a road trip back then, I suggest you just take a bus ride because there are Superlines which travels to Paracale directly. But if your bus or van is bound for Daet first, you can take a van going to Paracale after. That’s a 1-2 hour drive.
  3. If you availed of a travel package, a chartered boat going to Calaguas is readied for you. However, if not, you may hire one. That’s another 2-3 hours boat ride.

From Legazpi…

  1. Book a UV Express Van going to Naga City at the Legazpi Bus and Van Grand Terminal across SM City Legazpi mall. Travel time is 2-3 hours. The fare is Php 210.
  2. Next, proceed to the terminal going to Daet that’s just at the back of SM City Naga mall.
  3. Take step 2 from the Manila guide.
  4. Take step 3 from the Manila guide.

If you’re outside of the Philippines, wanting to experience this whole island adventure thing, just book a flight going to Manila and apply the same steps. Personally, I think it’s easier.

I could recommend you the travel agency they booked from, but I wasn’t there during the negotiation so I’ll just update this article if I ever get that.

Heads up, by the way!

There are going to be LOTS of “photo-bombers” out there called “boats” and “people” …to name drop a few. LOL. Also, there are no cellular signal and electricity on the island so you better charge your phones full-batt and text people that matter you won’t be able to keep in touch for how many days you’re staying.

There’s a generator that costs Php 50 ($1) for mobile charging though, but that’s only available during the night.

Here are some of my panoramic shots taken during our 3-days-2-nights vacation:

At the seashore…

calaguas island seashore

Trekking in the hills…

calaguas island hills

Sunset from the hilltop…

calaguas island sunset

Dusk at the beach…

calaguas island dusk

Day 2 Island Hopping…

calaguas island hopping

…although I kinda ruined the panorama shot here. LOL.

In conclusion, the scenery was amazing. Although the place was a bit crowded during the sunset, you can see folks of different skins and cultures scattered around, having the time of their lives too!

The whole trip all-in-all was worth Php 3,500 (that’s $70 in USD). Supposedly, it should be Php 2,500 ($50) including the gas contribution and fee, but we extended one more night hence the aforementioned.

Personally, my stay on the island was amazing except I really got sunburned. Thanks to my not-so stubborn mindset about sunblock lotions, I didn’t put on one because I’ve always thought to put on will just cease the burning sensation, and still get tanned nonetheless (which I dislike).

When I got burned, everything was awful! But I was able to get my skin color back in just two weeks using these new products I tried and tested. You can also read how I was able to do that in this article.

Overall, everything about this trip was amazing. For someone who has never traveled this far for an adventure and loved it, I think this kind of experience was worth it.

If only I hadn’t gone there with a heavy heart, I could have really enjoyed the trip to the fullest. Perhaps, next time with my main squad? Or maybe, with my new favorite person and/or family?

I’d really die for that!

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Ultimately The Best Combo Meal In Town: 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Tap Secret

I had been planning to visit Tap Secret ever since I’ve tasted Chef Hanny’s Liempo on a birthday celebration back in April 2017. As far as I can remember, that was the first time I’ve known of Tap Secret, and that many of my Facebook friends were posting pictures of their check-ins, saying the food was amazing.

I couldn’t agree more! That Liempo pulutan Chef Hanny prepared back on that birthday bash alone was indeed fantastic! So I thought, what more could Tap Secret’s official menu offer?

When I was able to visit the old house at Velamor Subdivision Olbest Street yesterday, I wasn’t proven wrong! The food – most especially the Laing Pasta – was indeed superb! I can’t wait to go back again!

And do you know why else should you visit this famous local joint everyone’s been talking about? Here are 5 reasons why:

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1. Excellent Customer Service

While I was eating at the diner yesterday, I figured how hospitable and genuine Chef Hanny Bulalacao (the owner of Tap Secret) was. While talking, serving and getting orders from his new and regular customers, I noticed how he also makes friends with them and get honest feedbacks for the betterment of the eatery.

For a boss like him, I was indeed impressed by his business ethics. I also thought that it was a pretty down-to-earth thing to do especially when he helps his staff on their errands as if he’s one of them.

Chef Hanny’s a very kind and humble philanthropist too by the way. Every year during his birthday, he cooks food for homeless kids and give out donations of school supplies, toys, used clothes, and more. He arranges these events as part of his celebration. He’s a real blessing to these kids!

Anyway, what I even liked about Tap Secret more is that his staff are super friendly. They give you what you need before you even ask them to. You should consider adding Tap Secret to your go-to eateries!

2. Mouth-watering food at a very affordable price!

What we’re all after, aside from eating good food at a known local joint are excellent customer service (check!) and affordability. Guess what? You can get them both here!

I love how at P99, you can enjoy a very tasty meal in a platter along with one (1) FREE fried rice! Yes, you’ve read that right, folks! FREE one (1) fried rice for only P99!

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Taken this with no filter, ya’ll!

Yesterday, I ordered this scrumptious Lechonsilog meal with one (1) FREE fried rice. Yes, I know, rest in peace diet but, come on! It was worth it! ?

I love how tender and crispy the Lechon kawali was! Chef Hanny has really done an amazing job in cooking and serving these cuisines as if they’re made from the heart. Well actually, you can really feel it with your own taste buds if you must try!

I was also able to try Tap Secret’s, Laing Pasta. Laing is a Bicolano veggie cuisine cooked with coconut oil or cream in dried Taro leaves. Here at Tap Secret, not only can you taste a well-done one, but can also taste it in a serving with a dish we all love (pasta)! Plus, you can set the level of spiciness as much or as less as you prefer! You can just talk to Chef Hanny about it.

If you’re not a fan of veggies, you might want to consider trying this and change your mind instead! It’s totally worth it, even my mom loved it (took out some)!

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I tried the solo meal yesterday, served for only P55! For Bicolanos out there in the urban jungle who miss home, and just want a taste of our local veggie dishes that aren’t served out there, you might wanna visit this place before going back! This dish will actually make you feel as if you’ve never left home! This really is a must try! Best served with Chef Hanny’s tastiest cordon bleu, along with a Coca-cola or Royal soda for me. Hehe.

Here’s the actual photo I took yesterday:

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Note: This isn’t the actual serving of the P55 solo meal.

3. FREE veggies to partner the meal of your choice!

Aside from the free fried rice you have every time you order, you can also get FREE veggies to partner the meal of your choice! This all depends whether or not Chef Hanny’s cooked some, or if he’s in the mood to experiment and try-out possible inclusions in his (future) menu. My visit yesterday was quite unexpected, though I have known of the freebie, but was I in luck indeed!

Yesterday, I was feeling pumped with the FREE gulay na santol (Santol fruit cooked in coconut milk) I had along with my regular Lechonsilog. It tastes really good! Matches the old combination we always want for lunch: beef/pork + veggies!

I was feeling super busog, I didn’t even think of the diet I was working on for two (2) weeks! It was worth it, you should try to visit here sometime. I mean, where else can you find these super meals at a very affordable price?

4. Serves freshly-cooked food

This is self-explanatory. You get the freshest food out of the kitchen. You don’t get served cold, just a fresh, and a well-done one.

5. Cozy dining place where you’ll feel at home

And, you can even catch your regular noontime shows while having lunch! Just sit back, relax, and enjoy eating your favorite meals, or even while you’re waiting for your food to be served.

Tap Secret opens from 9 AM until 8 PM from Mondays to Fridays at Velamor Subdivision Olbest Street, Albay, Legazpi City. Sometimes, when Chef Hanny’s out for an errand, he posts TS’ opening and closing time on his Facebook account. You can follow his posts here, and to also know more of Tap Secret’s newest additions, opening, and/or the latest reveals and/or discounts! Check out Tap Secret’s official Facebook page here, too.

 

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Me with Chef Hanny Bulalacao, owner of Tap Secret

 

Find out what the TAP SECRET is, and know why it’s called, “The best combo meal in town!”

Bon Appétit!