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Friday, September 16, 2011

Travel Talks 2 with the Sole Sisters

I was really looking forward to joining the Session 2 of the Sole Sisters' Travel Talks last Thursday. It was a weekday but that didn't stop me from going. I tried to leave the office a little early so I can be on time. Luckily, I got to ROX just in time to join in the dancing of Papa Americano! :)

Four wonderful speakers shared very helpful tips on traveling, photography and backpacking. There's James of JourneyingJames giving 10 Tips on backpacking, Estan of Langyaw with his tips on travel photography, Chi Chi of WeAreSoleSisters with her tips on preparing their 6 month long SEA backpacking trip and Lois, also of WeAreSoleSisters with the 100,000 pesos budgeting tip for their 6 month journey.

As usual, I was inspired again to do and jump into my own adventure of a lifetime. I'm taking it step by step that next year my first ever solo trip in the Philippines will debut with a trip down south!

It was also a nice event where I get to meet other Pinoy Travel Bloggers and friends from CouchSurfing. Apart from that, there were also games and free food afterwards. It was definitely worth attending.

If you haven't had the chance to join the first two sessions, they have the last one coming up this Sunday, 18th September. It'll be travel story and talent sharing night. Definitely a fun event to end the Travel Talk series with a bang! So go ahead and sign-up now - Travel Talk Session 3 - Travel Story Sharing Night

Photo credits: Grabbed from Kath of CS Manila and Lois/Chi chi of WeAreSoleSisters

A Weekend Trip to Bicolandia

I was so desperate to go out of town last long weekend. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating then and like many others I was stuck at home sleeping and just staying indoors. Gladly, last week a CS friend has invited me to join them to travel to Legaspi, Albay. I thought about it for a while since we are only going to travel on a weekend and because of work commitments I cannot afford to take another leave. Well, I was actually saving up my leaves for my travel on November and for next year!

Friday evening, I left the office to board the bus heading to Daet. One of my objectives as well for this weekend trip is to get another stamp at the Rizal monument in Daet, Camarines Norte! I was travelling with another CS friend, Charlie. He is coming from Cubao, but I decided to take the bus from Pasay which is near my office. The bus stops at the Pasay terminal at 9 PM. The bus fare costs 730 pesos one way. After a few around 7 hours we reached Daet - 4:30 AM. Since the stamp site is not yet open we decided to get something to eat a nearby lugawan station!

Lugawan sa Daet

We walked to the monument and just got some photos. There was a Jollibee just at the other end so we decided to stop by there and perhaps have our second session of breakfast. Okay, so I had pancakes and coffee. I was really stuffed.

Oldest Rizal Monument

It was so long ago

When the sun was finally shining, we walked to the capitol building again to finally get my Rizal stamp. Good thing it was already open at 6 AM. We looked and waited for kuya guard to place the stamp. Since we are meeting the other group in Legaspi, we actually still need to travel from Daet to Legaspi.

I need to log my name to be validated

Stamped in Daet!

Capitol Building in Daet

We dropped by the church

From Daet, we took the tricycle that took us to the terminal for vans. Tricycle costs 8 pesos. This is where we will board a van to Naga, then from Naga, take another van going to Legaspi.

The vans leave the terminal as soon as its filled up, so you may have to actually wait a while. The cost for the van to Naga is 145 pesos, travel time of around 2 hours.

From Naga, we wanted to drop by the mall but it was still closed. So we just decided to ride the next van to Legaspi instead. Naga to Legaspi costs 150 pesos, travel time of around 2.5 hours.

We arrived in Legaspi at noon. We have booked to stay at Mayon View Apartelle. Tricycle could be a bit expensive, our tricycle to the accommodation cost us 30 pesos each.

Since it was lunch time, we went to the mall to eat. We had lunch at Chicboy which was newly opened at that time. From our hotel to the mall, tricycle costs 15 pesos.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to wait for the rest of the group. After a while, Jay, Sam and Martin arrived.

Our plan for the day is to climb up Lignon Hill and view the majestic Mt. Mayon. But since the group were hungry, we went back to the mall again. We ate at Bigg's Diner. It looks somewhat like an American restaurant and had nice look and feel! While waiting we were entertained with answering the sudoku on the paper placemat.

With Sam and Charlie

Sudoku while you wait

Entrance to Lignon Hill

After the fulfilling meal, we took another tricycle to Lignon Hill, which is 20 pesos each person. The tricycle won't be able to go up so we had to hike up the hill. It was probably 15 to 20 minutes hike. The entrance to the hill costs 20 pesos.

The view at the top is overwhelming! We are so lucky to have finally seen the unobstructed view of the perfect cone of Mt. Mayon! There is a zipline also for those who want to try it.

Myself and Mt.Mayon

Majestic Mt. Mayon

We took lots of photos and later on decided to head to Embarcadero de Legaspi for dinner.

Embarcadero is great for chilling and should offer a nice view of Mayon on a good weather. We got our dinner in one of the restaurants, unfortunately when we ordered Bicol Express, it wasn't available.

There are a couple of shops in Embarcadero if you are the shopaholic type.

We went back to the hotel to rest and prepare for the next day. It was funny because we had enjoyed sleeping that we woke up so late in the afternoon and was only ready to check out.

We just had lunch again at Embarcadero and rested a while. We didn't have time left for other activities anyway. We had to be at the terminal at 6:15 as it was the departure time for the bus back to Manila.

Walking around Embarcadero shops

From Legaspi to Manila, we took the Deluxe bus worth 1,100 and arrived in Manila at around 4 AM.

Wow, it was such a quick but also fun trip. As always, it would have been better if we have spent more time to explore but nonetheless I'm fine with that spur of the moment trip with CS friends.

I can't wait to travel with my backpack again! :)

Itinerary Summary: Manila - Daet (Rizal Monument) - Naga - Legaspi - Lignon Hill - Embarcadero

Bus - Manila to Daet - 735
Van - Daet to Naga - 145
Van - Naga to Legaspi - 150
Bus - Legaspi to Manila - 1,100

Tricycle around Legaspi depends on location and haggling skills :)

Entrance fee:
Lignon Hill - 20

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The See-saw and the Cubby House

"A playground or play area is a place with a specific design for children be able to play there. It may be indoors but is typically outdoors (where it may be called a tot lot in some regions.[1])"
That's the copy-pasted definition of a playground from our online best friend Wikipedia.

I'm quite sure each one of us had that very wonderful time playing at a playground when we were kids. That very sweet moment when we were so young and care-free. Well, I've always enjoyed the playground. It's a place to meet our playmates and consume the day with nothing but joys and laughter. Most of us if not all, had a good chance of having these memories as part our growing years.

Most of us, but not all...not everyone.

More than a year ago, myself and a group of CouchSurfers hiked up the mountains of Ifugao, traveling for a total of 10 hours from Manila.

We just arrived in Lagawe

It's the first out of town trip that I did with CS. Most of them I have only met once before and some were new faces I've met right at the bus terminal. Therefore, we are mostly strangers to each other. Each of us came from different backgrounds with different personalities. Different we all are in some ways, we were common in our goal to head to the mountains. We all decided to spend a weekend to help and volunteer in building a playground for the kids of Pula.

Not looking like a playground yet

Up to this day, I'm still very thankful and humbled I got that chance to travel with the CS group and to volunteer for the playground build.

It was there that we met Felix.

Felix - our favorite

Among all the kids in Pula, Felix was the kid who made a very nice impression to me and the group. He was the kid who was always smiling. He was also one of them who helped us in painting the blocks of wood, assisted if we need anything and kept us going when we were all giving up as we climbed up the mountain bringing the sand from the river. The day before we went back to Manila, I gave Felix a small stuffed toy to thank him of the great experience we had in Pula.

Felix and the rest of the kids enjoying the camera

When I see Felix and the rest of the kids with their smile on their faces, I feel their great anticipation of the completion of the playground. I will always remember the lessons I got from this volunteer work and the kids of Pula.

Kids have the right to be kids and be happy. 

This playground is the medium for them to have fun, interact, learn and enjoy their youth.

Volunteering for a humble cause is one of the most liberating experience. 

After a day of work, we are still poised for the camera

Definitely a rewarding experience

I've done some charity work at school before but that was because it was part of our curriculum, but this volunteer work was something that struck me in many ways because I did it on my own initiative. I tried to tell myself I want to change the world even in my very own small way.

Pula playground cubby house

Yay! There's now a see-saw

That volunteer didn't end with one visit. We went back a few months after we heard the playground is finally complete. It was great to see the kids the second time. Felix has always had his welcoming smile. That time I have a couple of small notebooks as tokens for the kids as I know for the fact we won't be back anytime soon since the playground was almost completed. Seeing them so delighted is priceless.

Rand, Felix and the kids showing off the small notebooks

After more than one year, myself and the rest of the group that volunteered at the playground, plans to revisit the place on October. We definitely hope to see the kids again enjoying the small world that we created for them.

Photo Credits: Two photos came from a CS friend Billy :)

This is my very first entry to Pinoy Travel Bloggers' Blog Carnival, now in it's 11th edition (if I'm not mistaken). :)

Theme for this month of September is “Unforgettable Human Encounters on the Road” and hosted by Marky Ramone Go of Nomadic Experiences.

There's a total of 32 entries for this month's Blog Carnival, go check it out on the link above! ;)