Gigantes Islands, Iloilo Travel Guide: Tour, Itinerary, & Budget

Gigantes Islands Travel Guide

Gigantes Islands has always been one of my dream destinations

isla de gigantes travel guide

The Gigantes Group of Islands, famously called Islas de Gigantes or “Islands of Giants” are a remote group of islands in the northern part of Iloilo in the Philippines that include around 10 islands from the 2 big islands; Gigantes Norte and Gigantes Sur, and other amazing islets; from the Cabugao Gamay, Pulupandan, Bantigue Sandbar, and the Antonia Beach.

gigantes islands

However because of its remote location, the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo is difficult to reach than a lot of traditional tourist destinations in the Philippines. Still, countless travelers manage to visit Isla Gigantes each year.

Thankfully, Las Islas Travel and Tours made my trip easy and hassle-free to visit Carles Iloilo and explore the beautiful islands of Islas de Gigantes.

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How to Go to Gigantes Islands

The towns of Carles and Estancia are the main jump-off points, which can be gotten to by land from all significant transport centers in Panay Island including Iloilo, Roxas City, as well as Boracay.

*For this solo trip of mine, I chose to start my Isla Gigantes tour from Carles, Iloilo.

Travel Tip: it’s okay to come from Iloilo City and travel to Carles Port early in the morning to catch the tour which normally starts at 8AM just like what I did. I spent the night in Iloilo City after an evening flight from Davao, then took an early van bound to Carles at 5AM. Travel was swift and hassle free that we arrived in Bancal Port, Carles a little past 7AM.

how to go to gigantes islands

How to Go to Carles, Iloilo

From Iloilo City

  • Ride a bus bound to Carles via Ceres Bus Terminal, located in Tagbak Terminal.
  • Ride a Van or Bus bound for Carles and ask the driver to drop you at Bancal Port.
  • **Or you can coordinate with Las Islas Travel and Tours for a van sharing that could pick you up in Iloilo from your hotel or accommodation (much cheaper option especially if you’re a solo or couple traveler!)

From Boracay / Malay, Aklan

  • Now if you’re in Boracay, and wanted to do a trip in Gigantes Islands in Carles, there are plenty of van bound to Roxas City.

From Roxas City

  • Another option is that before you reach the Roxas Airport, you may alight at Lawaan Ceres Transport Terminal and then take the bus going to Estancia and then get off at Balasan where you can now ride a tricycle to Carles.

How to Get to Gigantes Islands

bancal port

From Bancal Fish port

If you’re heading to Islas de Gigantes, the popular starting point would be at the Bancal Port in Carles. Before you ride the boat, make sure to pay the environmental fee at the tourism office. Travel time from Bancal to Gigantes Islands is approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.

Take note that the boat only runs once daily from Bancal to Gigantes Norte Island. It departs Bancal Port at 10 AM and leaves the Island at 2 PM, so we suggest you come at the port early.

Fortunately, those who are availing the tour packages are served special trips by the tour operators at their agreed scheduled time.

What to do in Gigantes Islands?

There are a lot of activities you can do in the island, such as strolling around the coastline, do some island hopping, seeing the old lighthouse as well as to have an outstanding 360 scenic sight of the sea. You can also explore some caves, snorkeling, as well as spelunking too!

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Isla Gigantes Island Hopping

A visit to Gigantes is not complete without taking an island hopping tour. Including traveling time, you must allot a minimum of a whole day to check out all the primary sites. Package rates for island-hopping scenic tours differ depending upon the trip operator, sort of boat used, and also the number of passengers in the trip, with bigger groups taking advantage of more affordable rates. My tour was taken cared of by Las Islas Travel and Tours, a DOT accredited agency advocating responsible tourism.

Tangke Salt Water Lagoon

DCIM115GOPROG8759052.

This destination is popular for its outstanding rock formations, and also a swimming area in its shallow waters. It essentially appears like an enchanting swimming pool, and is actually Instagram-worthy. The residents have actually essentially called is as “tangke” or tank as because of the gap among its boulders creating an opening.

Tangke Salt Water Lagoon

Bantigue Island

Bantigue Island

Perfect spot where you can swim and snorkel! It’s also possible to camp out on the island here. An island where the shape of the sandbar shifts depending on the current.

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This beach is additionally the usual lunch area for most island hopping tours.

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At lunch time at Bantigue Island I enjoyed the most the UNLI SCALLOPS!

what to eat in gigantes

Aside from the one peso scallops, you can also enjoy steamed oysters locally called wasay-wasay (the local dialect for axe because of its distinct shape). These are pretty good too!

wasay-wasay

Antonia Beach

Like the Bantique sandbar, Antonia Beach is the ideal spot where tourists can go snorkeling.

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Tables and also chairs are additionally set up under the coconut trees by the beach.

This is also another island good for taking photo ops!

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Cabugao Gamay Island

This island is just one of the most photographed islands of the Gigantes Group of Islands.

Gigantes Islands Travel Guide

Cabugao Gamay provides a spectacular view of two sides of the coastline visible from a sight deck constructed in addition to rock developments.

If you want your photo taken with the island’s bird-eye view, you can head over at its view deck.

gigantes island

I actually wished I had visited years ago when the view point was only reachable by climbing on the rocks. However to deal with the increase of tourists, the view point is now reachable by a concrete stairway with wooden handrails. Entrance fee: P50 per head

Gigantes Islands Guide

Pulo Pandan Island

This is the last island we visited before our Gigantes Islands day tour ended. This tiny islet with one tree is considered a resting place of fishermen who go out to sea.

They said right here at Pulo Pandan or Pulupandan, one can get a remarkable view of the sunset.

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Where / What to Eat in Gigantes Islands

There are various carinderias or you can buy fresh seafood from the public market. Most island-hopping package tours also include a seafood buffet lunch as part of their offerings just like we had in Las Islas.

where to eat in gigantes

Where to Stay in Gigantes Islands:

Rustic resorts can be found in Gigantes Norte Island, the main village where most residents live. Most offer basic accommodations catering to budget-conscious travelers. It’s also possible to camp out in tents at Antonia Beach and Bantigue Island, though it is not really encouraged during peak season because of water scarcity in the island.

Take note that there is no public water line that runs in the islands and fresh water for bathing and personal needs have to be brought in by barrels and containers from the mainland or from island springs and deep wells.

Camping fees usually cost P200/pax for those staying in tents. Electric power is also limited on Gigantes Norte Island and runs at scheduled hours and may be cut-off at night. Some resorts may have generators.

Gigantes Islands Travel Budget

Here, we listed some estimated budget for your Islas de Gigantes tour.

Transportation

  • From Iloilo to Gigantes, van fare (including pick up from hotel) would cost 270 pesos per pax.
  • The boat ride from Bancal Port going to Gigantes Norte public boat, plus the environmental fee is for 75 pesos per head. A discounted rate of 60 Pesos is available for Students, PWD’s and Senior Citizens (with ID).

Boat Rental Rates

  • Small Boat – P3,500 good for 1-10 persons
  • Medium Boat – P5,000 good for 11-15 persons
  • Big Boat – P6,000 good for 16-30 persons

Tours and Fees

  • If you are getting your own boat for the Isla Gigantes tour, you also need to pay your tour guide for 500 pesos. Remember to bring some cash with you too, as there is no ATM machines near the área.
  • Shower areas – for guests on a day tour, they have shower rooms for you to change into dry clothes available in Bancal port for a 20php fee.

Entrance Fees in Gigantes Islands

  • Cabugao Gamay IslandEntrance fee: P50 per head
  • Antonia Beach –  Entrance fee: P40 her head
  • Tangke Saltwater LagoonEntrance fee: P20/head

gigantes islands itinerary

Gigantes Islands Tour Itinerary

SUMMARY OF EXPENSES 2-Way Van Transfer Iloilo-Carles – P250 x 2
1 Island Hopping Day Tour from Las Islas Travel and Tours – P999

Total – P1,499/person

Island Hopping Day Tour Inclusion

Seafood lunch buffet
5 Islands Stops
Entrance fees
Boat Transfer To/From Bancal Port
Environmental Fees

SAMPLE ITINERARY Day 1

0400 Wake Up
0500 ETD Carles/Bancal Port / Van Pickup
0700 ETA Carles/Bancal Port
0715 Register
0730 Breakfast (at own cost)
0800 ETD Start Tour
0900 Tangke Lagoon
1000 Bantigue Island (lunch venue too)
1200 Seafood Lunch Buffet
1300 Antonia Beach
1500 Cabugao Gamay Island
1600 Pulupandan Island
1700 ETA Bancal Port. Iloilo Bound

CONTACT INFO Accredited Tour Coordinator 
Las Islas Travel and Tours

Carles Tourism Office
Globe – 09273978629
Smart – 09124458197

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Gigantes Islands Tour Operator

Gigantes Islands Tour Package for 999 ONLY!

Because of the multiple transfers involved, for groups that want hassle-free travel, it may be more convenient to avail of the services of a tour operator. I highly recommend Las Islas Travel & Tours, a DOT-accredited travel agency advocating responsible tourism. They’re also the first travel agency to offer tour packages in Gigantes Islands before it became so popular.

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There you have it adventurers! Gigantes Islands is surely on its way to being one of the country’s top tourists destinations but I hope it stays the way it is in the years to come.

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Let me know what you think about this paradise. Comment your questions, suggestions and violent reactions.

If you found this post interesting or has helped you out in any way, let me know on the comment as well. Don’t forget to share this post. Until next time, adventurers!

Travel Made Easy – Tips To Assist In Your Travel Plans

travel in philippines

If vacations are supposed to be relaxing, then why is traveling so stressful? Sometimes, it seems as thought it would be easier to just stay home, but you don’t need to give up on your trip! This article will help you get through the stresses of traveling so that you can kick back and enjoy your time away.

1. Blend In with the Locals

When traveling, you can avoid hassle and reduce travel dangers by blending in. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or location-specific designer brands that mark you as a tourist. Instead, try to dress like the locals do, and don’t draw attention to yourself. Locally-owned businesses and lodging are less likely to be a target for terrorists and pickpockets alike.

2. Bring Things To Keep You Busy on Long Trips, Journeys, or Flights

You should always bring something that will keep you occupied on a flight. A simple entertainer is a pen and paper. You can play games, write poems, draw little sketches, anything you can imagine. This will keep your mind focused so you are not concerned about how much longer the flight will be.

3. Protect Yourself

What types of insurance coverage does your credit card offer? For example, you may enjoy coverage for flights that get cancelled, as long as they were charged to your card. Research can make your trip even better.

4. Bring Your Own Headphones for In-Flight Entertainment

If you are traveling by airplane, be sure to bring along your own headphones. Most in-flight entertainment systems today require that you wear headphones. You may be able to buy them in-flight, but it will be at a greatly inflated cost. Headphones are also a great way to create ‘white noise’ to block out your neighbors and/or the plane noise.

Finally..

Vacations should be fun, not another source of irritation. The tips in this article will help you get through the annoying aspects of traveling, and enjoy all the best parts of it instead. No one should have to spend their vacation worrying. Enjoy your trip, and have a great time!

How to Travel Southeast Asia For 2 Months on a Budget!

Find out how I went on a backpacking budget trip across Southeast Asia for 2 months with just 50,000Php, or just $1,000!

60-days-asia-trip

8 Countries – 60 Days – 18 Destinations – 1 Adventure

  1. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
  2. Legian/ Kuta Area, Bali, Indonesia
  3. Bangkok, Thailand
  4. Phuket, Thailand
  5. Yangon, Myanmar
  6. Bagan, Myanmar
  7. Singapore
  8. Vang Vieng, Laos
  9. Luang Prabang, Laos
  10. Vientiane, Laos
  11. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  12. Siem Reap, Cambodia
  13. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  14. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  15. Danang, Vietnam
  16. Hoi An, Vietnam
  17. Cua Dai Beach, Vietnam
  18. Hanoi, Vietnam

Travel Dates: 09.13.2016 – 11.13.2016

asia-map

Hello dearest readers,

So it had been two awesome months across Southeast Asia – that’s a total of around 16 flights, 20+ hostels, 18 destinations, 8 countries, and a thousand miles and countless footsteps in just 60 days! Do you think you could do it?

Don’t worry, I’m here to share with you my itinerary along with many budget advice and travel tips that you could use should you decide to follow my journey in the future! Continue reading

List of Coffee Shops in Davao City

They say you can’t buy HAPPINESS,

but you can buy yourself a CUP OF COFFEE,

and that’s pretty much the same =)

So as my own way of sharing happiness, and for someone who just loves coffee (and a freelancer who tambays most often in coffee shops in search for fast wifi, hehe), here I am, compiling a list of all coffee shops in Davao city.

Davao Coffee Shops

I’ve also added some side comments for those with recommendations, must try, etc. This list will be constantly updated so feel free to add any coffee shop you knew that wasn’t mentioned here.

Those in BOLD are those I’ve often read with good reviews!

I’ll also be writing an individual blog post for those coffee shops I’ll find interesting. It is my wish to visit them ALL 😉 *wink

Coffee Shops in Davao City

Coffee Shops Davao

1. 128 Ostrich Steak Hauz & Coffee Shop – Airport View Tower, Catitipan
2. 51 Coffee Shop – Victoria Plaza Mall
3. Agong Cafe – Duterte St.
4. Au-Alit -Davao Doctors Hospital
5. Basti’s Brew – Legazpi St.
6. Basti’s Brew – Victoria Plaza Mall
7. Bigby’s Café – SM City
8. BluGre Café – Landco Corp. Tower [Must try: Durian Coffeeccino]
9. BluGre Café – Matina Town Square Mall [Open 24/7]
10. BluGre Café – SM City
11. Bo’s Coffee Club – SM City
12. Bo’s Coffee Club – Torres St. [Open 24/7]
13. Bogser’s Java & Jazz Coffee Shoppe – Bangkal, Davao City
14. Brew Crew’s Coffee House – Juan Luna St.
15. Brewedcasters Café – Car Park Building, G-Mall
16. Brewhaha – Davao
17. Brewtique – Bo. Obrero
18. Bruegger’s Café – Autoshop, Bajada
19. Bryan’s Grill & Café – Obrero
20. Café 54 – Victoria Plaza Mall
21. Café Andessa – Cabantian Road
22. Café Barcellis – J.P. Laurel Avenue
23. Café Breizh – The Venue Complex
24. Cafe Demitasse – F. Torres St [Must try: banoffee pie, creamy carbonara, moist chocolate cake, and mudslide frappe]
25. Cafe Firenzo – Damosa Market Basket [Must try: Lavazza cheesecake]
26. Cafe Firenzo – Quirino Ave
27. Café Juna – Juna, Matina
28. Café Marco – Marco Polo Hotel Davao
29. Café Palma Gil – Palma Gil St.
30. Café Uno – Waterfront Insular Hotel
31. Caffe Vivere – Mt. Apo St.
32. Calle Cinco Coffee – Roxas Avenue
33. Calle Cinco Coffee – Victoria Plaza Mall
34. Chicco Di Caffé – Poblacion District [Must try: Coffee Halo-Halo]
35. Claudes’ Café de Ville – Rizal St.
36. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – Abreeza
37. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – SM Lanang
38. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – The Peak, Gaisano Mall [RECOMMENDED FOR GOOD AMBIENCE]
39. Coffee Dream – Damosa Gateway Mall
40. Coffee Dream – DMSF
41. Coffee Dream – Market Basket
42. Coffee Dream – SM City
43. Coffee For Peace – Matina
44. Coffee Grounds by Golden Lion Dormitel – Roxas Blvd
45. Coffee Monster – Ilustre St.
46. Coffee Plus – Davao
47. Coffee Pod – Torres St.
48. Coffee Spot – C.M. Recto
49. Coffeecat – Jacinto Ext [Must try: Durian Tapioca, Avocado, Coconut, and Mango are just some of CoffeeCat’s Avalanche drink and Pearl Milk Tea variants]
50. Coffeecat – Sutherland Compound (Quirino)
51. Coffeecat – Torres Street – NOW CLOSED
52. Copa Bossa – Quimpo Boulevard
53. Corum Coffee Shop – Bajada
54. Cups and Lowercase – Torres St.
55. Darcy’s Place – Lapu-lapu cor. Sobrecarey Street
56. Davao Coffee Express – NCCC Mall Matina
57. Dayaw Coffee & Tea – SM Lanang [24/7]
58. Dulce Manos Café – Juan Luna St.
59. Fabulous 50’s Cafe – Crown Regency Hotel
60. Fagioli Coffee Club – Lanang
61. Fagioli Coffee Club – Quirino Ave.
62. Figaro – Chimes Mall Davao
63. Figaro – J.P. Laurel Ave, Bajada
64. Figaro – SM City
65. Fiscalizer Restaurant and Coffee Shop – Ponce Reyes Street corner D. Suazo Street
66. Formula Pete’s Café – Bajada
67. Gloria Jeans – Grand Regal Hotel
68. Green Coffee – F. Torres St, [Open 24/7] [Must try: Blueberry Ensaymada, Freeziccinos]
69. Green Coffee – J.P. Laurel Bajada Ave [24/7]
70. Green Coffee – Marfori Hts
71. Hazel Coffee Shop – Buhangin-Cabantian-Indangan Road
72. Hazel’s Café – Bajada
73. Hue Cafe – Ateneo Business Center
74. JavaJive – Quirino [24/7]
75. JavaJive – Wheels N More Drive, J.P. Laurel Ave, [24/7]
76. Jelly Citea – Juan Luna St. and Matina Town Square
77. Jose Rafael Fine Coffee – Lanang
78. K1 Coffee – Ecoland
79. K1 Coffee – Torres St.
80. Kalakoa Coffee Hut – 3/F Abreeza Corporate Center [RECOMMENDED FOR FAST WIFI]
81. Kamayo Café – Palma Gil St.
82. Kangaroo – Central Bank, Quirino St. [Must try: Kape Balos, a local version of the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, made from civet droppings]
83. Kape de Bohol – Jacinto St.
84. Karl’s Koffee Korner – Dacudao [24/7]
85. Karl’s Koffee Korner – SM
86. Karlo’s Coffee – Jack’s Ridge [Must try: Kape Marang, Durian Coffee Gelato, Mangosteen Frappuccino, Guyabano Coffee Freeze, and Kape Langka]
87. Kasagingan Kapehan – Torres St.
88. Koffie-pauze – Palmetto Place, Talomo
89. Kopi Roti – Jacinto St.
90. Le Grandeur Café – Grand Menseng Hotel
91. Miko’s Brew – Chavez St
92. Mini Air Dog Cafe – Mabini St, Poblacion District [RECOMMENDED: first dog-friendly cafe]
93. Mon Bebe Café – Chinatown
94. Mon Bebe Café – Lopez Jaena Street [Must try: authentic Italian coffee]
95. Mon Bebe Café – Seawall, Ecoland
96. Monster’s Café – Ilustre St.
97. Net Front & Coffee Shop – C.M. Recto
98. Nezz74 Café – Obrero
99. PeaceBuilders Community Café – University Avenue
100. Pia’s Café – Davao
101. Port Café – G-Mall
102. Pronto Mario – Sta. Ana Avenue
103. Purple Bean Coffee – Star Oil, Cabantian [RECOMMENDED FOR FAST WIFI]
104. Roadhouse Café – SM CIty
105. Rolls & Buns Bake House-Coffee Shop – Buhangin
106. Sarimanok Coffee Shop – Agdao
107. Scott & Cates Coffee Express – Doña Vicenta
108. Sea Green Cafe – Circumferential Rd, Poblacion District
109. SilverCup – Mt. Apo St.
110. SkyGo Cafe – Davao International Airport
111. SouthBrews – NCCC Mall Maa
112. Spro Coffee Shop – Gen. Luna St.
113. Starbucks Coffee – Abreeza Mall
114. Starbucks Coffee – SM City Ecoland
115. Starbucks Coffee – SM Lanang [RECOMMENDED FOR GOOD AMBIENCE]
116. Street Café – Juan Luna St.
117. Tata Benito’s A Whole Latte Love Coffee – J.P. Laurel Av.
118. Tata Benito’s A Whole Latte Love Coffee – World Palace
119. The Café Mediterranean – Sales St.
120. Tump Café – NCCC Mall
121. Turkish Coffee Shop – Bonifacio St.
122. Twosome Palace Coffee Club – Victoria Plaza Mall
123. Woodberry Cafe – (Beside The Paper Tree) Sta. Ana Avenue
124. Yellow Hauz / Coffee at Yellow Hauz – V. Mapa St, cor Mabini St [RECOMMENDED FOR GOOD AMBIENCE] [Must try: Chai Tea Latte,Wintermelon Milk Tea, or the Matcha Green Tea]
125. Zabadani Layered Coffee – Ponciano St., Davao City

Additions:

126. Cafe Amoree – Damosa [Open 24/7]
127. Cafe Tavera – Avanceña St, Torres area
.

So what are you waiting for? Tara mangape ta!
.

Sizzling Escapes to Spain

Spain holidays have been a family favourite with British holidaymakers for years; attracting tourists back year after year with its sandy beaches and familiar British themed bars and restaurants. Some of the beaches in Spain are a haven for watersports with activity holidays being popular. There are many resorts dotted up and down the coast from small quaint fishing harbours to large, lively resorts, whether you’re after a relaxing beach break or a fun-packed adventure, you won’t be disappointed with a trip to sunny Spain. For some great Thomas Cook holiday offers from the world’s best-known name in travel, take a look at: http://www.thomascook.ie/.

Don’t be fooled by Spain’s partying exterior and busy beaches. Yes, there’s a lot to shout about with the modern holiday resorts but behind the mask is a past rich in history and culture. Andalucia is a colourful mix of traditional flamenco, white-washed hilly villages and grand palaces. Catalonia is a picturesque town with its rugged coastline and inland, rolling green hills. For more culture and sights, Spain’s capital, Madrid is centrally located and full of museums, stunning architecture and a wealth of cafés and eateries.

The Costas are a popular choice for holidaymakers boasting fantastic beaches and family-friendly resorts. The most popular are Costa Dorada, Costa Blanca or Costa Del Sol, each offering glorious golden beaches, plenty of shops, bars and restaurants and many attractions such as water parks, animal centres and fun adventure parks; the little ones will be entertained all holiday. And of course, there are some great Thomas Cook holiday offers to take advantage of when you book online.

Marbella is the place to go for an up-market ‘mingle with the stars’ type getaway! With its impressive harbour lit up with trendy wine bars and eateries, you can sip cocktails whilst enjoying the stunning views. Situated in Malaga, sitting on a beautiful bay, the historic part of Marbella combines white-washed houses with orange groves and quaint cobbled streets. This place is a haven for golf lovers, with courses enjoying sea views from one direction and the breath-taking mountain scenery from the other. With a wealth of sports, spas and leisure activities on offer here as well as beautiful beaches and an exclusive party scene, it’s no wonder Marbella is the place to be!

Accommodating your Teens on the Next Ski Holiday

It’s never easy going on holiday with hormonal teens. Whether you think they’ll love the break or not, they’re bound to want to spend more time on their own rather than losing their street cred hanging about with their parents. We’ve all been there – we know that as a teenager, a holiday is awesome but a little bit of “me time” wouldn’t go amiss.

The same applies to ski holidays. Despite the fact that parents are super cool if they love the thrills of skiing, a teen will still hope that their style doesn’t get cramped. While Austrian ski holidays are an incredible option for a winter break, making sure that there’s enough for your teens to do to keep them happy will mean the difference between happy faces and adolescent strops. Luckily, whether you choose to ski Austria or beyond, there are plenty of ideas for you to consider.

First of all, research the various resorts so that you book one that suits them as well as you. Resorts that may have been perfect in previous years may not be nowadays, so adapt to suit. Keep an eye out for off-piste and après ski activities – a cinema, teen-friendly bars, tubing or a bowling alley, for example.

Choose a ‘trendy’ resort that they will be all too happy to brag about to their mates – one where other teens are likely to be who they can hang out with, without their ‘uncool’ parents. Pedestrianised resort centres are ideal for this, because you won’t have to worry too much about where they are or how they’re going to get back.

Let them choose their own ski gear. While younger kids wouldn’t care what they’re dressed in, teens do. Introduce them to the cooler brands like Roxy and O’Neill – you can pick up some great bargains in the end-of-season sales so you won’t have to spend over the odds.

Make sure you look for snow parks too – whether your kids are boarders or skiers, snow parks are a fantastic way to keep them out of mischief, in the vicinity of like-minded teens.

Most of all, don’t stress too much! The more laidback you are, the more your sulky teen will be inclined to spend time with you!

My Spiritual Journey to Simala

It was a cloudy afternoon of the 13th of December 2012 when my travel buddy and I, scheduled to set off to our Visayas backpacking adventure –a travel that will cover Southern Cebu, Negros Oriental (Dumaguete), Siquijor, Negros Occidental (Bacolod), and Iloilo.

Leaving Cebu City an hour past lunch, we headed to the Southern Cebu Bus Terminal and boarded a bus that will pass by Brgy. Simala, Sibonga, Cebu.

South Cebu Bus

I’ve always heard of stories of miracles  told about this particular church in Brgy. Simala. Aside from it’s striking castle like structure, local folks and the monks of Simala Church  claimed that they witnessed several miracles and one of the miracles that they witnessed several times is the crying of the statue of Virgin Mary.

Sibonga Mama Mary

By then hundreds of pilgrims travel to Sibonga and visit the Simala Church.   In the past decade the church was very small but because of non-stop flow of donation by  many pilgrims and by commercializing the Church, it’s structure changed to a very elegant and beautiful Church on the mountainous Sibonga.

The Castle-like Simala Church

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Being there is simply rejuvenating. We were even in luck for when we got there we’ve had a chance to attend the monthly regular mass. (*devotees come by truckloads to be there every 13th of the month to hear Mass at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or during the weekends at 3 p.m.)

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Mass at Simala Church

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A blessing that I think God is showing me to chase my dream to travel, for there’s no other better way to start one’s adventure than being blessed and enlightened by His word.

Strolling Around the Miraculous Church

Simala Church (1) O

How to go to Simala Church?

Getting there is you have to be in Cebu City then go to South Bus Terminal and ride a Ceres Bus going to Sibonga.  It’s easy to find the Church because the Bus driver will inform the passengers once you get there. It’s a 2 hour and a half hour ride from Cebu, by the time you reach the stop point for the Church you will take a  motorcycle ride to bring you to the Sanctuary.

Simala News Clip

Here’s a news clipping I’ve found in the internet that may help…

CEBU CITY, Philippines – No place is too far to visit for a miracle.

In south Cebu, thousands of Cebuanos and other visitors from far and wide, climb up a hill to the Mother Mary Shrine in Simala, Sibonga town, bringing their faith and petitions for cures and other divine aid.

Each year, the crowd of devotees and first-time pilgrims seems to grow bigger.

January 1 is marked in the Christian calendar worldwide as a solemnity in honor of Mary as the mother of God, a day of obligation for Catholics to attend Mass.

At the Mother Mary Shrine in upper Lindogon in Barangay (village) Simala, Sibonga town, 48 kilometers south of Cebu City, devotees come by truckloads to be there every 13th of the month to hear Mass at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or during the weekends at 3 p.m.

The shrine became “famous” after word spread that the image of the Virgin Mary was seen “shedding tears of blood,” a phenomenon that lacks scientific or official church validation but nevertheless draws more people to the area.

Driving to Simala shrine by private car from Cebu City means two to three hours on the road, barring heavy traffic in the outlying towns. Public buses ply the south Cebu route but one would have to get off a corner of the national road to reach upper Lindogon and hail a motorcab or a habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) for P20 to take you to the shrine about four kilometers up the mountains.

At the site, one has to cross a foot bridge and walk up a concrete pathway to reach the church, an imposing concrete structure at the top of the mountain. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the peak, which offers a breathtaking view of green slopes and fresh air.

The Marian monks who maintain the shrine have also landscaped the area, which has a mini falls that cascades down a small pool and well-tended gardens.

Signboards warn people that picking the flowers would be like “stealing from Mother Mary”. Families can have picnics and meals in cottages built for visitors. Children like to throw coins in a wishing well which features a large bell. Carenderias outside the gates of the shrine are proof of the steady volume of visitors in Simala.

Those who grumble about the distance are quickly shamed by the sight of elderly men and women on wheelchairs and crutches who go there to hear Mass and line up to kiss the image of Mary. These senior citizens don veils on their heads while praying, the same one Mary wore when she “shed tears of blood.”

While the church exterior is imposing, the interior is clearly a work in progress. The floor doesn’t have tiles and the church is not completely roofed. The hall is filled with wooden pews that look up to an elevated makeshift altar, where the statue of Mary is visible. Scaffoldings around the makeshift altar show work still being done on the ceiling. The rest of the church has no ceiling yet, which makes it humid inside, eased only by the breeze that wafts inside the tall windows on each side of the church.

A major purpose of visitors and devotees who go to Simala is to offer their petitions. Blank sheets of paper and pens on which to write their intentions are prepared by the monks for one to drop in a box at the right side of the glass-encased Marian image. Thank you letters are dropped in a box to her left side.

Visitors in lone queues walk barefoot to the statue. Since the area is considered sacred ground, shoes and footwear have to be removed and modesty is part of the dress code. Wearing of shorts, body-hugging blouses or sleeveless shirts is not allowed. Visitors who come dressed in this attire are asked to cover up with sarongs or malongs, prepared by the monks at the entrance.

In front of the Marian image, one is given only a few minutes to either kiss or say a short prayer, so as not to hold up the line.

Two other lines lead to a display of veils similar to the one the Marian image was wearing on the day believers said the “Birhen sa Simala” “shed” tears of blood.

On one display, the veil is placed on a low altar, where one can kneel and place the veil on one’s head while praying. The other one is placed on another statue of Mary. To view this, devotees have to stand within the folds of the veil and hold on to the hands of Mary while praying.

The path leading to both veils is lined with wooden cabinets where written petitions and thank you letters from as far as the United States and other countries are posted. Most petitions ask for a divine cure for ailments of the seeker or a family member’s. Several petitions were made by students seeking to pass the Bar or board examinations. Others seek help in finding jobs abroad.

In another cabinet, thank you letters are laid out, full of gratitude to Mary for answered prayers. While waiting for the line to move, reading the letters is an engaging past time. One woman sent a package containing her nursing uniform, her offering of thanks to Mary for passing the nursing licensure examination.

Further on is a cabinet crammed with wheelchairs and crutches offered by those who were cured of their ailments. The sight is a moving, modern day wonder, echoing Bible stories about the sick and lame who were able to walk again or were freed from their maladies by Jesus Christ.

By Marsante G. Alison
Cebu Daily News

 

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2012: AdventuRoj Year of Firsts!

So, I’ve got to be honest: it’s REALLY surreal to be writing this year ender special to you guys. I can’t believe it’s already December, and that 2012 is coming to a close! What a year it’s been!

Looking back at 2012 is a little strange, actually. Strange, because it was such an amazing year, where so many of my dreams came true—so many, in fact, that it still doesn’t feel quite real.

I could still remember that one cold New Year Morning in January 2012 when I’ve pondered to create AdventuRoj.com, thinking it might be good to start the year with a New Blog for a New Year.

Some days, it feels like it happened to someone else, or that it was just the very best dream I ever had in my life, and I’ll wake up one morning and none of it will have happened. But 2012 DID happen. And so many of those dreams came true because of YOU GUYS.

So to give back to all that had happened, I’ve made a special year ender for all of you. So sit back, relax and together let’s reminisce the Adventure we’ve had for 2012!

2012 Adventuroj Year-Ender Video Special

– – –

January 2012: Celebrating New Beginnings

It was my first outdoor far away trip on my birthday month. Drove all the way to Bukidnon  and had a blastin’ adventure there!

January 2012

January 2012

Festive February 2012

Come February, and a lot of travel adventures in line. We’ve come flying all the way to Clark for a weekend of everything that flies. Then went roaming around on Subic. The following weekend, me and my travel buddy had a Palawan get away to celebrate her big day. And the adventure didn’t end there, after that, coming back home to join GenSan’s Colorful Kalilangan Festival.

From the Skies to the Grounds and into the Deep

From the Skies to the Grounds and into the Deep

A Sunny Side of March

After trekking a bit of Luzon, let’s now head south at Zamboanga City this Month of March. Coupled with my closest friends, we’ve challenged ourselves to a Zamboanga City 3D/2N: 1,000 Peso Travel Challenge. Wondering if we did it? Find out! Who says that exploring the Pink Island of Zamboanga, the historic sites, and the colorful musically gyrating fountains can be luxurious?!

March 2012: Marching All the Way at Zamboanga City

March 2012: Marching All the Way at Zamboanga City

A Peaceful Month of April

After a series of outdoor adventures, AdventuRoj went home to spend some quality time with her family. A trip at my grandparent’s homeplace in Maitum, Sarangani Province, and a quick Dinosaurs Alive getaway in GenSan. Apart from that, the month of April had been lined of blogposts focusing on the essence of Holy Week [my Wholly Week Special series of posts], enabling one to reflect in silent peace and harmony.

April 2012: Enjoying Some Quality Time Back Home

April 2012: Enjoying Some Quality Time Back Home

An Adventurous May

On the month of May, I was once again back at Clark and in Subic. This time together with my family and friends, we’ve ventured out the life in the wild, heading to the Jungle Zoobic Safari, and a water adventure at the Ocean Adventure park at Subic.

May 2012: Back at Subic to Enjoy the Marine and Jungle Life

May 2012: Back at Subic to Enjoy the Marine and Jungle Life

A Grandiose & Vibrant June

Come my most awaited month, perhaps my most favorite-estestest! Haha. Featuring Adventuroj’ first out of the country trip this year, off to Hong Kong! Not just that but also the chance to witness my greatest admired singer and song writer, Jason Mraz Live in Concert.

June 2012: A Trip to Hong Kong, feat. Jason Mraz Live

June 2012: A Trip to Hong Kong, feat. Jason Mraz Live

Watch Jason Mraz Live in Hong Kong Video

A Jovial and Joyful July 2012

The merriment’s not yet over, this July we’ve had a feast of colors in vibrant costumes paired with joyous beats of the drums in celebrating my home province’s South Cotabato‘s T’Nalak Festival!

Tnalak Festival in South Cotabato: A Parade of Colors

Tnalak Festival in South Cotabato: A Parade of Colors

Not just that, this month was also extra special because Adventuroj won its first Major Blog Award being hailed as the winner of Tnalak 2012 Blog Writing Contest. For everyone who supported me during my endeavor, my heartfelt thanks to all of you.

Celebrating Differences: Tnalak Festival Amo na ya!

Celebrating Differences: Tnalak Festival Amo na ya!

Click Here to Read my Winning Entry

An Adventuresome August

During this month of August, we’ve ventured out all the way from Lake Agco in Kidapawan City, to dancing to the beats of Kadayawan Festival in Davao, and enjoyed a Surfing adventure @ Siargao.

Adventure at Lake Agco Kidapawan City

Adventure at Lake Agco Kidapawan City

August 2012: Surf's Up in Siargao

August 2012: Surf’s Up in Siargao

Kadayawan Festival 2012 in Davao City

Kadayawan Festival 2012 in Davao City

Life’s a Beach in September

This month of September, we’ve gone Beachin’ fun in Cebu & Bohol with my barkada with only a 3k budget.  Then the week after I’m off to Boracay-Guimaras-Iloilo to celebrate my dad’s birthday along with the whole family.

Beachin From Cebu-Bohol to Boracay-Guimaras-Iloilo

Beachin From Cebu-Bohol to Boracay-Guimaras-Iloilo

October 2012 Birthday Fest

This month of October, Adventuroj arranged a trip to take my Family for my Mom’s Big Day at Palawan. A once in a life time experience trailing the ever popular Underground River and a taste of another exotic food, ‘Tamilok’. Have you tasted one?

October 2012: Taking my Family for my Mom's Big Day at Palawan

October 2012: Taking my Family for my Mom’s Big Day at Palawan

A Nostalgic November 2012

For the month of November, we’ve gone back in time as we journeyed the heritage sites of Vigan and old Churches in Laoag. Then followed with an off road 4×4 adventure sand boarding at La Paz Sand Dunes and a Pagudpud Scenuic Tour.

November 2012: A Journey Back in Time in Ilocos - Vigan - Pagudpud

November 2012: A Journey Back in Time in Ilocos – Vigan – Pagudpud

An End of the World Year Ender in December

And to end the year this December, a grand Visayas Backpacking in Cebu – Siquijor – Negros – Bacolod – and Iloilo.

Backpacking in Cebu-Siquijor-Negros-Bacolod-Iloilo

Backpacking in Cebu-Siquijor-Negros-Bacolod-Iloilo

Fast isn’t it? I hope you guys have an amazing holiday season, and that, no matter what your dreams might be, they come true, too.

Thank you again—from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you to everyone who read my blog, and encouraged me to keep on posting.

Thank you to the wonderful friends and family I have who helped made my 2012 a success!

Some of you have wondered if I am going to post more travelogues, adventures, and misadventures. The answer is an unequivocal: YES! 🙂

Writing to help make our world a better place, as I have found, is highly addictive.

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to you all, as the case may be. Wishing you a wonderful and festive time with those you love.

Looking forward to many more adventures, discussion, and friendship with you all in the year to come!

Adventuroj Travel Quote

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blogcarnival3001This is my First entry to Pinoy Travel Blogger’s Blog Carnival for December 2012,with the theme: “2012: This Year In Travel”.Hosted by Gay Mitra-Emami of Pinay Travel Junkie and Regine Camille Garcia of Between Coordinates

Rough Budget Travel Guide to El Nido

It’s 45minutes before the so called ‘End of the World’ and I’m sitting here on my lappy, working my ass out, while pondering about what I’ve done in my life – mostly my travels (*it’s perhaps one of the innermost drives that fuels me), will the aftermath God find this cause noble? Oh well. Enough with my thoughts.

This is just a sudden blog post, while on the middle of my thoughts, I received this PM via FB from someone asking a rough budget guide to El Nido.

El Nido Map

El Nido Map

Question:

Hi, Roj!

Good evening! Actually d kita kilala

Pero magtatanong lang sana ako about sa Palawan trip… if you wont mind. Kasi napansin ko uv been to almost all of the tourist destinations ng Pinas. So, i think ikaw yung pinaka-reliable person na pwedeng makatulong amin. hehehe!

Nasa Saudi ako ngayon at plano namin ng wife ko at mga kaibigan namin na pumunta ng El Nido pag-uwi namin– mga 2nd week of January ’13. Kaso wala kaming makitang murang packages (d namin kaya ang 10k+, hanggang 6k lang kami. hehehe). May alam ka bang mura na package? Or Anong advice mo para malessen ang expenses namin? We badly need your inputs.

Thanks in advance!

– – –

So with his kind words, the travel soul in me awakened. There’s nothing more fulfilling of being a travel blogger than being able to help fellow traveler. So below I’ve come up with a quick how to get there and budget accommodations + etc + etc to El Nido.

How to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa, Palawan?

Bus/Van: Eulen Joy Bus Line or Sweety Bus Line go from Puerto Princesa to El Nido at 5, 7, and 9am (Php 350 ; eight hours travel). Departure from El Nido for Puerto Princesa roughly between 5 and 8:30am.

The Aircon RoRo Bus leaves daily at 6am, and 2pm; the return bus also leaves at 6am and 2pm (6hrs ; Php500)

Fort Valley Vans leave Puerto Princesa for El Nido at 7 and 11am (Php 600 ; six hours). A Saviour Shuttle Company leaves at 7am.

El Nido Map

El Nido Affordable Accommodations

Lualhati Cottage. Rizal St. Cel 0919 319 6683 @ SR/DR/Fan/Bath P500. Located at the Southern edge of town heading in the direction of Corong-corong.

Cliffside Cottages. Rizal St, Cel 0919 785 6625. SR/DR/Fan/Bath P600

Ricos’ Beach Cottage . Hama St, Cel 0929 467 1632 @ SR/DR/Fan P600 and P750, SR/DR/ac/bath P1600.

Dara Faye Beach Cottages . Hama St Cel 0919 322 1416. SR/DR/fan/bath P700, cottage/fan/bath P1000.

Marina Garden Beach Cottages. Hama St. Cel 0917 624 7722 @ Cottage / fan/bath P730 and P1000. A more established place with basic, conventional cottages and a new building with good, clean rooms.

El Nido Island Hopping Guide

El Nido Palawan

El Nido Palawan

You can also have a boat take you from El Nido to a beach or nearby island of your choice. A few suggestions might be:

  • Bocal Island (P600 per boat, up to 4 passengers)
  • Paradise Beach (P600)
  • Pasandigan Cove (P700) ; good for snorkelling
  • Dilumacad (Helicopter Island) P700
  • Ipil Beach (P600)
  • Lapus-Lapus Beach (P600)
  • Inabuyutan Island (P1000)
  • and Seven Commandos Beach (P700) ; excellent for snorkeling.

El Nido Budget Tour Contacts

A variety of whole day island hopping tours (9am-4pm) P750 and P900 per person, including BBQ Lunch, can be arranged through Judith in the Travel Center of El Nido Boutique and Artcafe, Cel 0920 902 6317. She also organizes kayak tours.

Tuba-tours (Rhoderikc dela Cruz) Hama St next to the Squidos Restaurant, Cel 0927 724 5496, offers island hopping around El Nido.

An Eco Tourism Development Fee of P200 per person to be paid (good for ten days).

So there it is! An instant budget guide to El Nido.

Special Thanks to my copy of Philippines Travel Guide by Jens Peters, 2012 edition.

Highly Recommended: You could read reviews about the book HERE

Phil Travel Guide 2012 by Jens Peters. Got myself a copy from the author himself! ^^,

Phil Travel Guide 2012 by Jens Peters. Got myself a copy from the author himself! ^^,

Are You Afraid of the Pain?

It is human nature to desire happiness and desist pain. But oftentimes, both of these won’t come to you without the other. The story then just depends on the way you look at these two realities in life when they actually happen to you.

Below is a story that I’d like to share with you today. May it remind us that like most of the little things that occurs in our day to day lives, the labor of working, misunderstandings in relationships, family conflicts, etc. all these are just part of our life’s effort required to help us appreciate happiness all the more. There is no happiness without pain.

As what they say, “If it feels easy, you’re doing it wrong”.

by JEREMY MCCARTHY on THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WELLBEING

People often ask me how I do everything that I do.  Writer, blogger, teacher, father, spa industry leader . . . I wear many hats (and try to wear them well.)  I usually don’t know how to respond when someone asks me what my secret is, but I think I’ve finally figured it out:  I’m not afraid of the pain.

I was thinking about this last week when I went to Barbados on vacation with my wife, our two-year-old son Dylan and our six-week-old baby Max.  Traveling with two kids that young is not easy (in fact, it sucks) and most sane people wouldn’t even think of planning a trip like this.

Day one of our vacation was pretty miserable: getting two kids out of bed, fed and dressed at 5 a.m., mad dash to the airport, juggling strollers, boppies and baby bottles through the security checkpoint (our baby formula went through a chemical analysis that would make the cast of CSI proud) until we finally took off en route to Barbados. The four-hour plane ride was no picnic either, with a wriggling infant on each lap (particularly Dylan who seemed to only be able to distract himself from the discomfort of the flight by exploring new and innovative ways to annoy nearby passengers.)

You’re probably thinking we were finally able to relax once we landed in Barbados . . . No such luck.  We went through emotional meltdowns with each child as they adapted to their new environment.  So, by the end of the first day, I was exhausted, had a splitting headache, and was starting to wonder if this was a good idea.

But then came day two. Continue reading