Thursday, January 27, 2011

callao cave cagayan

one of nature's greatest display of its magnificent are found inside large cavernous chambers and the Philippines has a good number of accessible caves and a great number of unexplored caves.
after our trip up North to the island of Palaui, we head back to the city of Tuguegarao the gateway to Callao Cave by van. located along the mountain range of Northern Sierra Madre and East of Tuguegarao.
the first cave that i've known ever since i was kid would be Callao Cave in Penablanca in the province of Cagayan. popular because of its accessibility even to those who've never ventured to any potholing activity.
though one requires to walk up 180steps before reaching the cave's main entrance, it is relatively easy since six out of the seven claimed chambers are basically in one connected cave channel. you will even be surprised that with just few steps the guide tells you that you've already crossed to another chamber.the second chamber has in it a chapel that made this cave famous to as early 1970. one needs to be there early morning to capture this chamber at its best. it is dependent on the sun rays which comes from the caves sinkholes. when we went there, this chamber was almost completely dark.
Callao Cave has gained another reputation after the discovery of a foot bone on a excavation done near the first chamber's entrance was proven by archaeologist to be about 67,000years old pushing back the long known Tabon man of being the oldest discovered human remains in the country.
this did not just brought a new record within the country but has also placed the Philippines in the sixth position worldwide to have found the oldest Homo sapien fossil (see updated list from Wikipedia here).
though the whole experience of caving here can be a bit boring, as most of the chambers are dark at most times, one can actually maximize their visit there by taking the river trip to the nearby Pianacanauan river to an area where the bats comes out of the forested area by late afternoon.
how to get there:
from Manila by bus: take a bus to Tuguegarao, the capital city of Cagayan province which is about 12-14hours. then rent a tricycle to the town center or gate arch of Penablanca.
from Manila by plane: take a flight to Tuguegarao which is just about an hour from Manila. then rent a tricycle to the town center or gate arch of Penablanca.

from Penablanca town, rent another tricycle that will bring you to the cave's tourist center (estimated period: 30-40minutes). eskapo recommends that you have the tricycle driver wait you and pay for the return as transportation is scarce in that area.

from the tourist center, pay the entrance fee of P20 and you'll be given a young kid to guide you to the 180steps stairway to the main cave entrance. the kid will give share some facts and infos about the cave. they will not demand you for payment and so any amount will do.

island: Luzon
province: Cagayan
closest gateway: Tuguegarao city

escape factor:
accessibility: 3.5
mountain view: 3.0
cave structure: 4.0
caving experience: 3.5
historical value: 4.5
overall escape factor: 3.5

GPS location
17^ 37' 0" N
121^ 49' 33" E

Sunday, January 23, 2011

cape engano palaui island

haven't seen waves so wide yet moves at a slow pace, that was just few minutes when we were approaching the Northern coast. with the hope that it ain't going to be larger. the lighthouse wasn't in view yet.
the lush and rugged forms of Palaui island from the port of San Vicente seemed like it was just a jump away. so close that a small fish boat can actually take you to the closest docking point on the South side of the island but entails long hours of walking to reach Punta Verde, our destination.when we entered Punta Verde's cove, water was calm and the Cape Engano lighthouse on top of the hill, came into view. the cove's pebble beach was just fine but its isolation made it fantastic. no cottages yet along its beach line.trekking our way up to hill was the best part. the view after several steps up the artially-made walkway was breathtaking. it's where one gets a view of the large grassland on one side and the beach on the other.
while on our way up, i remembered when i first saw this island in a travel show which featured the hosts going to the island taking a helicopter and landed on this large beautiful grassland of Punta Verde. awesome 180 degrees view from that point.few more steps and we reached Cape Engano lighthouse. just one of the many Spanish built lighthouses mostly during the 19th century. this one now on its 118th year of existence serves as a major landfall light to assist ships coming from the Pacific.though still operating, what remains of this lighthouse are ruins of bricks from its old structure. the tower can still be accessed at a certain level on its spiral stairway. the windows gives a view of the surrounding area including the beautiful peaks of the island of Dos Hermanos.some trekkers would stay overnight our guide mentioned and i asked if he did experience some weird manifestations, he said he didn't. looking at its ruins, two factors seems to have caused it, nature and probably lack of maintenance and funding. a rehabilitation of this lighthouse might be under way but for me, as ruins it remains a great photo subject. a significant beacon. a beautiful island icon. if they won't be able to preserve its original structure, i hope they will be able to preserve the ruins.
how to get there:from Manila,
option 1: take a bus (recommended Florida bus) direct to Sta Ana which usually about 15hours.
option 2: take a plane to Tuguegarao and take a van or bus to Sta Ana (about 4hours).

when in Sta Ana, take a tricycle going to San Vicente port (10mins) or eskapo recommends that you take option 2 (van) and ask the driver to drop you at San Vicente port.

when in San Vicente Port, look for the tourist center and pay for the minimum tourist fee. then rent a boat that will take you to Punta Verde (estimate 1hour boat trip) to go to the lighthouse. boat fee usually is around P1,500. you also have the option to go to Anguib beach which has a better beach than the one in Punta Verde (estimate 30mins boat trip).


when going to Punta Verde to go to the Cape Engano lighthouse, from the port of San Vicente would take about 40minutes by boat through the East route and almost an hour through the West route. the latter, a longer route yet is often preferred by the boat man. the rough waters of the East coming from the Pacific can sometimes lengthen the trip and might even lead you to danger.

island: Palaui
province: Cagayan
boat take off: San Vicente Port (Sta Ana, Cagayan)

escape factor:accessibility: 3.0
boat trip: 3.5
beach: 3.5
lighthouse: 4.5
trekking: 4.5
overall escape factor: 4.0
GPS location
18^ 34' 33" N
122^ 08' 22" E

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the night i wished i was an Igorot

it was raining when we left Manila night of the 30th of December though i knew weather the next day will be fine in the Cordilleras, still i was thinking if my parents can actually handle the cold climate of Sagada. while we were on the road, i noticed that we've actually brought more sweaters and jackets than clothes. took out the Lonely Planet Philippines travel guide and showed them the long Halsema Highway leading to the Mountain Province. my father and mother are used to long trips so i knew the trip will be fine but not the climate as it is their first time to go beyond Baguio in the Cordilleras. of the many trips that i get to grab along friends to the Cordilleras, i believe my parents deserves to see it as well.true enough, the long and winding road went well for them as they enjoyed the scenic mountain views from the window of the chicken bus that we took. the locals actually gave way to the window seats as i mentioned that it's my parents first time to take this route.
on the bus' last ascend to the town center, the rock formations quite known to Sagada came into view, which resembles to the amazing Tsingy de Bemaraha in Madagascar. we arrived just in time for lunch.
despite walking being the best activity in Sagada, i didn't plan to bring them to those sites that required walking beyond 30minutes. dropped by St. Mary's church and brought along with us lemon and egg pies from the town's famous shop.came night time, the temperature was so low that my mother had to overlap her sweater with another sweater. it was around eight o clock when i heard gongs and firecrackers from outside. went out to buy some chips and noticed that the sounds of the gongs actually came from a group of locals who were gathered outside a nearby shop.
there were tables on one side with food and drinks of which the locals offered me while i was watching some of them dance to a typical Igorot beat. i was drawn by the idea of how the locals of Sagada actually celebrate the eve of a new year. something unique. something so different for me.
around six men mostly just around the age of 30s played the gongs lined up following the one infront with dances rooted to their ancestry. the ladies follows the same routine but with arms stretched and shoulders tilted on one side. all these done with smiles and laughter.
the joy of celebrating a new year and of ancestral traditions combined was impressive. we, as visitors were not spared from joining them as they brought us in the circle along with some foreigners. i ended up playing the gong myself and struggling to follow the dances which sometimes required one foot partly raised. the night went so fast that it was only the sound of the bell of the town church reminded me that it was already ten o clock. the time when the mass at St. Mary's was about to start. went back to the hotel and spent time with my parents waiting for the remaining hours of the year exactly 12midnight, we did the usual family tradition of first eating three raisins and made three wishes. though we were away from the rest of the family, we knew we were celebrating the joy and the blessings we've received as a family.
the sound of the gongs continued and so i invited my parents on the street to experience the Kankana-ey way of celebrating. in many ways, it was also similar to a typical Filipino new year in some provinces where different families would gather and play some traditional games.
the foreigners ended up playing including Koreans who seemed to jive with the fun. food was offered from time to time while they continue to dance in different beats and moves which symbolize the many rituals. it was two in the morning and when we asked what time the dancing will end, they say until six. awesome! seeing the way they embraced this culture was such a great experience. it was then a night when i wished i was an Igorot.
island: Luzon
province: Mountain Province

escape factor:
road trip experience: 4.5
mountainscape: 5.0
new year experience: 5.0
seclusion: 4.5
overall escape factor: 4.5

Saturday, January 15, 2011

what you think i should experience this year in the Philippines?

it was fun reading your entries and with some of which i already experienced and with some i've already considered yet haven't done yet. here to share just three out of the many interesting and some witty entries on "What you think i should experience this year in the Philippines?" which for sure i wanted to experience but maybe not all within the year.
"Go to Mindoro to meet the Mangyans and photograph their man-made refrigerator! (See for yourself na lang how they make their refs and where they place it!" - Beth

- sounds really intriguing on how they actually do that. Mindoro is on my list to visit this year and let me see if i get the knack of finding that improvised refrigerator when i get there.

"Off the beaten path, somewhere in Anda in the province of Bohol are remnants of a long forgotten history- hanging coffins. Several hematite paintings could be seen on the wall of the cave where the remnants are. Facing the Mindanao Sea, could they be ritual symbols for the long voyage?" - Edik

- first time to know about hanging coffins in Bohol apart from the ones that i've seen in Sagada. the Hematite paintings in the caves are very interesting.

"Climb Mt. Napulak (Igbaras, Iloilo) and see the world's largest flower - the Rafflesia a.k.a "corpse flower". It would be a challenge as rafflesia is rare and a little hard to located as it only last for a few days. :) The view is also beautiful. Just go and discover what Igbaras has to offer, as they have many falls and caves that are yet to be discovered by the public." - Audrey

- i remember seeing this plant featured on a tv show and with your entry, it led me to research more about it. with the fact that this plant is rare and so unique this gives me the challenge of actually seeing it myself.

congratulations to Audrey who's going to get the Lonely Planet Philippines travel guide book and to Edik and Beth who gets to receive the latest issue of Lonely Planet Philippines magazine.

email me at on how to claim your prize.
i wanted to thank all those who participated and submitted their entries of which some i actually considered doing this year including the swimming with the whale sharks (Nina), trekking the Akiki trail of Mt. Pulag (Archie) and visiting the islands of Siargao (Charmaigne).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

eskapo year three contest

three years blogging for eskapo has brought great opportunities and experience which i didn't expected. to start the year, i wanted to know "what you think i should experience this year in the Philippines?" this could be as simple as trying out Dagupan's special delicacy Pigar-Pigar or as daring as finding the sea snake sanctuary in Olutanga in Mindanao. i'll be choosing three from all the entries on the basis of being unique. the two contributors will get special travel items and the one which i'll choose as top one will actually receive the latest edition of Lonely Planet Philippines.
contest guide:
1. just post your entry on "what you think i should experience this year in the Philippines?" as a comment here or in Facebook if you're connected with me there. expand your answer with why i should experience it.
2. contest is open from Jan 11 12:01am until Jan 13 11:49pm. winners to be revealed on Jan 15. entries only within this period will be valid and one entry per person.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

nineteen of my most memorable trips in 2010

the year 2010 was another great year in travel with a mix of a visit to nearby countries of Singapore, Vietnam and Japan while not missing out some of my best experience of our country. the experience of great culture and exploring islands along with travel buddies always makes it memorable. here to share nineteen of my most memorable trips and experience in 2010. cheers to another great year ahead!

[19] Charm of Caracol Festival (Makati City, Metro Manila)
though this festival is nestled in an urban setting and does not often lead the audience to participate and take part like the other festivals in the country, the costumes are colorful enough to attract photo enthusiasts to test their gears for festival shots. beyond that, i personally am attracted to Caracol because of the smile that comes out naturally from the participants.
Caracol Festival 2010

[18] Chinese New Year in Binondo (Manila, Metro Manila)might not even be too close to what one can experience the Chinese New Year in Beijing yet it's that special time when one gets to enjoy food trip and celebration of dragons and lion dance in one place. this year, i had with me some bloggers who were as excited to experience both.
Everything Red, Gold and a Lumpia to Crave
Chinese New Year
Te Ya Kong Temple
Seng Guan Temple
Dong Bei Dumplings
Binondo Food Trip

[17] Day Trippin Laguna (Paete, Laguna)
one of those few just-go day trips along with travel buddies Lawstude, Roadworthy and Lantaw can sometimes be too memorable. it led us to dropping by the towns of Paete, where wood carvings are at its best, and Caliraya, where a view of the lake and a walk around a Japanese garden can be so relaxing.
Three Stop - Laguna

[16] Visiting Tumaini Church (Tumaini, Isabela Province)
i've been longing to see this church for quite some time and on that day when Pacquiao was putting down Margarito, i was right infront of this church while the people were cheering inside the big gym which was right infront the church. the church remains to be one of the most interesting churches as its bricks were placed in intricately in sequence and an unusual white painted bell tower.
[not yet posted]

[15] Remembering the Churches North of Cebu (Danao City, Cebu)
the churches North of Cebu are rarely visited by tourists as it is often overlapped by the famous Basilica de Sto Nino. the towns of Danao and Liloan has churches built on lime stones. the next time you go to the beautiful islands of Bantayan, Malapascua and Camotes, drop by these towns and explore the churches.
[not yet posted]

[14] Pagbilao Beach Escape (Pagbilao, Quezon)
if my love for the beach triggers, Pagbilao's beach remains to be my favorite. a day trip to this hidden beach has always been memorable. this year i brought along friends who were among the funniest group that i've been with to celebrate with me my 2010 year-ender beach trip. it started and ended perfectly experiencing both the hot sun and the cool rain.
Escape Pagbilao

[13] Return to Capones Island (San Antonio, Zambales)
a return to one of my favorite islands in the country brings back the memory of the near-death experience that we've had when we were crossing to this island. this time, we simply enjoyed the beach and the crowd did not lessen the beauty of the island. almost picturesque from any perspective of this rocky island.
A Return To Capones Island
Camara Island

[12] Southernmost Gumasa Beach (Glan, Sarangani)
on that very short time that we were on the beach, we knew that it's one of the most beautiful beach in the country. sand was white and extra fine which can definitely be compared to that of Boracay and Bantayan. commuting to Gumasa includes a van from General Santos City and an exciting and rough habal-habal or a motor-ride that can be unforgettable.
Gumasa Beach

[11] Celebrating Kalilangan Festival (General Santos, South Cotabato)
a side trip to the Tuna capital of the Philippines on an unintended timing to its annual Kalilangan Festival. though participants were few compared to the other festivals that i've been to, the sequence of participants roaming around the wide Pioneer avenue did not make it any less than the other festivals. the Gen San bloggers who hosted us made us feel that this is a city in Mindanao one shouldn't miss out.
Kalilangan Festival
Around General Santos
Piyesta's Kurat Sticks

[10] Parasailing in Boracay (Boracay, Aklan)

Boracay did not escape from my list of places visited in 2010 as it seems like there's always something new to experience every time one would return to the island. whether it's a new resort or a new activity that you haven't done last time you visited this party island. this year we were hosted by Alta Vista de Boracay which included one of the best water activity there which is parasailing. this, i highly recommend those who visit the island at least once in your life.
Parasailing Boracay
Atis of Boracay
Morning in Puka
Alta Vista de Boracay
Night Buffet at Waling Waling

[9] Singapore by Night (Singapore)
Marina Bay Sands and Unviersal Studios were not yet open when i went there. so i visited the usual spots and a taste of the street ice cream sandwiched with wafer or bread and a taste of Singapore sling at Long Bar was my favorite. the cruise along its river was also good and definitely better than the Singapore Flyer.
A Monument, An Island and a Sling
Singapore River Cruise
Esplanade by Night
Central Singapore and the Merlion
Multi-culture Singapore
Singapore Changi Airport

[8] Road Tripping Ifugao and Mountain Province (Ifugao/Mountain Province)right after a storm hit the Cordillera region, most roads were closed due to the damage done by the landslide. but that didn't stop us from exploring the often missed out town of Poitan which has a charm of a small community isolated from the usual touristy spot in Banaue. our trip to Bontoc led us to the awesome display of art over vegetable paddies on the town of Bayo.
[not yet posted]

[7] Magnificent Palaui Island (Sta Ana, Cagayan)
one of the final trips that i had schedule for 2010 was also one of my most memorable with a visit to Palaui island. the big waves coming from the Pacific on the last minutes of the one hour boat trip almost led us not to proceed. the view from the lighthouse, the rock formations similar to that of Batanes and the green plains is stunning. now this island was added to my list of most beautiful islands in the country.
[not yet posted]

[6] Island Paradise of Puerto Princesa (Puerto Princesa, Palawan)
whether its the creatures of the sky, the land or the underwater, the island paradise of Palawan is awesome. it holds numerous towering karsts and unspoilt beaches as well. this year, we were hosted by Microtel Palawan which also brought us to the underground river and Honda Bay along with other travel bloggers. a sighting of a rare blue peacock which is one of Palawan's symbol made it more memorable.
Puerto Princesa - A Guide
Honda Bay - Island Hopping
Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa's Towering Karst
Three Stop 1 - Puerto Princesa
Three Stop 2 - Puerto Princesa
Microtel Palawan
Microtel Palawan Sunrise

[5] Exploring Alibijaban Island (San Andres, Quezon)
exploring an almost forgotten or not so known island is one of this year's highlight. i found Alibijaban when i was searching for an island with a nice beach through Google Earth's satellite views. later did i knew that it is a sanctuary of many mangroves and sea creatures and beyond this the notable friendliness of the locals in the island. it felt like i was in my home island.
Alibijaban Island
What You Need To Know About Alibijaban
The Quezon Less Seen

[4] Pho Pho and Beyond (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)
i can't remember the many times i've said Xin Chao when i went to Ho Chi Minh with friends Melissa and Nadz. the Pho tastes really good from almost anywhere along the streets of Saigon. the experience of crossing the streets among the flow of motorbikes was crazy and a ride with this motorbikes is fun while exploring the many pagodas of the city. the trip there won't be complete without visiting the site of the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which we were really impressed.
Twelve Things I'll Never Forget About Vietnam Cu Chi Tunnel Vhin Ngiem Pagoda
Vietnam Pagodas
Bike City
De Tham Backpacker's District Notre Dame Church
Vietnam Night Market
War Remnants Museum
Reunification Palace
Hu Yen Si Church
Three Stop Ho Chi Minh
Good Morning Vietnam
Entering Ho Chi Minh

[3] Adventure Davao (Davao, Davao del Sur)
Davao is a region of adventure. we were not mistaken when we chose Davao to be a summer-opener for the year 2010. the white water rafting experience was the highlight on this trip. other adventure activities one can consider includes zipline, snorkeling, scuba diving, trekking to waterfalls and even wakeboarding. with the help of Davao bloggers, we had our chance to try out Maxima Aqua Fun which was exciting. the next time i'll visit Davao, i want to trek to the country's highest peak Mt. Apo.
All Set and Ready
White Water Rafting
River One Adventure Team
Maxima Aqua Fun Samal Island
Paradise Resort Samal Island
Hagimit Falls

[2] The Great Calaguas Group of Islands (Vinzons, Camarines Norte)
its clear and crystal clear waters, fine white sand and isolation makes this group of islands to be on top of all the islands that i've been to around the country when it comes to the beach. visiting it twice this year explains it. when you visit Calaguas, take note that it's not just the coast of a great beach shore, it's a group of islands that you need to explore. trek its hills and drop by its other islands which i did and you'll definitely be in awe of what the island holds. you can check out the guide that i made on how you can maximize your Calaguas experience.
Ten Reasons Why I Love Calaguas
Calaguas Islands - A Guide
Mahabang Buhangin Central Beach Area
Mahabang Buhangin Rocky Side
Islands of Calaguas
Maculabo Island
Pinagcastillohan Island
Calaguas Uphill
Trekking Tinago Hills
Mangkawayan Village Calaguas
Ending A Day In Calaguas
Paracale - Gateway to Calaguas
To The Island

[1] Yokoso Japan (Japan)

my trip to the Japan was definitely my most memorable trip for 2010. a lot of surprises came out while i was there exceeding my expectations of a country so beautiful. my chance to visit the capital city of Tokyo, the booming city of Osaka, the busy streets of Nagoya and its Northermost island of Hokkaido was a way to understand the Japanese culture. a mix of modern and old traditions gives this country a great character. as one would see the high tech Shinkansen trains, you'll also notice that the people still loves to bike and walk. it is truly amazing to have seen a country like Japan.
Senso-ji Temple Asakusa Tokyo
Hozomon Gate Asakusa Tokyo
Tokyo Tower
Nakamise Asakusa Tokyo
Kaminarimon Gate Asakusa Tokyo
Tokyo Subway
It Ain't All In Japanese After All
[Osaka, Nagoya, Hokkaido - not yet posted]


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