Friday, March 23, 2012

Excited to travel!


After almost six months of travel hiatus, it’ll be only be exactly 5 days before my long travel. Yey! Spell excited and that’s me. Seriously, for a travel junkie like me not being able to go on a trip for such a long time was a torture. Hmm well not really but I had to make some adjustments and focus on other things like work (boo).

Guess where my destination is? SINGAPORE..where the love my life is currently based. I will be in SG for 12 days.. yay!  At first I was quite hesitant of taking a long vacay because of work. Most of the time, we are working to meet really tight project deadlines. But since the holiday was stretched due to the upcoming Holy Week and and me missing Erick, I decided to go anyway.

It’s gonna be my 5th time in Singapore and you know how quaint it is. So I guess I’ll pass up on the touristy activities and do some more local stuff like maybe running in the park, going to the wet market, and eating at hawkers. I really haven’t listed what I wanna do with my 12 days in SG which reminds me to start listing them. Well, Erick and I have planned a quick Batam getaway during my vacay. That's one and probably some outlet shopping. And oh, I haven't gone yet to Ikea :)

I brought a new 25kilos capacity burgundy luggage from World Traveller. Should start packing my stuff this weekend! I’m excited!!!!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The case of a compromised credit card


Yesterday, I bought a luggage for my upcoming trip next week.  I bought a World Traveller burgundy luggage with 25kilos capacity.  It was a good deal at 50% off considering the brand and size. I decided that I was just gonna use my BPI credit card. When the cashier swiped my card, she got an error saying ‘call voice center’.  I got confused since I already paid my outstanding balance before due date which was last Friday. I asked the cashier to try it again but it still was giving the same error. This irked me because I didn’t want shell out cash but had no choice since I was at the counter already. So in short, I bought my luggage in cash.

When I reached home, I immediately called BPI to inquire what could be possibly be the issue. I already paid my outstanding dues so I could not understand why my card has been declined that night and also last Saturday when I tried to use it. They checked my records and inquired when was the last time I used my card. I told them it was probably first week of March when I bought an item from one the deal sites. I tried to use it after but it got declined when I booked a flight from Cebu Pacific for my sister. I thought the card was just maxed out since I share the same credit line with my dad.

Upon further investigation, the BPI phonebanker informed me that there appeared to be transactions using my card from Apple app store. There were two transactions on March 9 amounting to USD 144 and another one on March 11 amounting to USD 10. This freaked me out since I don’t remember downloading something from Apple and I don’t even have an Iphone or any Apple gadget. I am not gonna pay for that! 

The agent suggested that I should file a dispute on the items purchased using my credit card. He called another department to verify something. When he got back to me, he informed me that the transactions made under my card did not push through and BPI have permanently blocked my card so that it would not be further misused for transactions. Wheeeeeew! What a relief! But I'd appreciate if they could have informed me that they’ve blocked my card instead of me calling them to know the situation. I tell you, it’s really embarrassing to stand in the cashier only to be told that your card has been declined,  with a long line of customers behind you. I wanted to disappear in embarrassment.

Lesson learned: Use your credit card with extra caution. Like most of you probably, I use my card with ease in online transactions. It saves me time and it's faster. I never thought that I would be victimized by fraudulent use of credit card. Anyways, I was informed that BPI will process the replacement of my credit card within 1 banking day and the delivery would take about 3 days. I just hope to get my new credit card soon because I will be out of the country next week and will definitely need it.

Here are a few useful tips from BBC Web-wise to keep your credit card safe and sound.

Stay safe!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Take me to the beach!

Summer is officially on! I can’t help but daydream about going to the beach these days, just daydreaming because I really haven’t got any plans to hit the beach this summer. Erick and I will be on a quick beach getaway when I visit him in Singapore this coming Holy Week. *fingers crossed*. Well that’s another story.

I’ve always been a budget traveler and I've been to many beaches here in the Philippines but most of them are on a budget trip. But of course, given the moolah and all, I would love to explore some of the luxury beaches in country. After all, the best beaches in the world are here!

Here are some beaches I am dying to go to:

El Nido Resort, Palawan

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When I hear the word "Palawan”, pristine beaches are the first things that come to my mind next to the Puerto Princesa Underground River. I’ve been to Puerto Princesa, Palawan and we have toured the Underground River, Honda Bay, and Sabang Beach. This beach vacation with the family was super relaxing and fun that I want to go to back to Palawan, but this time in the luxurious El Nido Resort. For budget-conscious travelers, staying in El Nido town and going on island hopping is an option but I want to experience the white sand, blue waters, and luxury accommodation El Nido Resort offers.

 
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El Nido Resort have combined a luxurious hotel experience and a private and secluded beach. Most upscale resorts provide the best accommodation but lacked in beach quality. When visiting in El Nido, you can choose from the four island resorts in which you will stay in: Apulit, Lagen, Miniloc, or Pangalusians islands or alternatively you can choose to stay 1 night on each of the island. How beach lovely is that!

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Palawan is truly a paradise found!


Bellarocca Island and Resort Spa, Marinduque

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Bellarocca is located in Marinduque and sits on an island with an overlooking view of the blue sea and clear skies. I first came to know about Bellarocca when an exclusive deal site offered a very tempting deal for a 3D/2N stay. Upon seeing the resort pictures, I was awed by the Santorini-inspired architecture of the resort. After all, it’s not often that you find a Greek inspired architecture here in the Philippines.

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The accommodations are really lovely. Private villas have their own infinity pool and outdoor jacuzzi. Who can resist the charm and privacy offered by Bellarocca?

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I'm not completely sure if the beach is recommended for swimming. I heard that the beach is rocky. There are water sports activities to try though such as windsurfing, jet ski, water skiing, etc. Or you can just lock up in your room and laze in the king-size bed or better yet lounge in your private pool as you sip your cocktail and enjoy the view of Mt. Malindig. This is the life!



Club Tara Beach Resort, Siargao Island

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Siargao is known as the Cloud 9 for its humungous surfing waves. I guess every surfer wannabe dreams to go to Siargao. I heard there are surfing spots for beginners which is cool. Well aside from being the surfing capital of the Philippines, Club Tara Beach Resort is also found in Siargao.

The resort is located in one of the Bucas Grande Islands also known as the Sohoton National Park. The islands are a hidden gem with some white sand beaches undiscovered and wonderful snorkeling spots.

The cottages stand on the water surrounded by 6-8 islets. Staying in one of their jacuzzi villas would be so relaxing with the view of the green sea.


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    Misibis Bay, Bacacay, Albay

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A Bicolana myself, it’s a shame that I haven’t gone to Misibis Bay which is dubbed as a luxury island playground. To be quite honest, I didn’t find the resort enticing at first because I knew that the white sand beach is artificial. Hehe Beaches in Albay are all black sand because of Mt. Mayon.


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However, the resort has been in the spotlight since it opened which made me curious. After all, having born and grown in the province I want to know what this little island has to offer. A beach trip could be planned, it's just an hour trip by land and ferry transfers anyway.

Take me to the beacccccch! 

PS: All the photos are taken from each of the resorts' websites.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ilocos travel series: Ilocos - good until it lasts (day 3)

Knowing that it was gonna be our last day in Ilocos, I woke up a bit early. I had a good night’s sleep after drinking basi, a locally-made Ilocano wine. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t able to keep awake the whole night to join the gang in the all-night drinking spree. It may have been due to basi or I was just dead tired from the whole day of activities. 

Our itinerary for the day included a whole morning of beach bumming in Pagudpud, a visit to Patapat Viaduct, Bangui Wind Mills, and Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and then merienda at an authentic Ilocano restaurant, and some souvenir shopping in the public market.

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Good morning Pagudpud!
After breakfast, we spent all morning in the beach. It was our last hours in Pagudpud so we wanted to made the most out of it.

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Happy beach time :)
After lunch, we went to Patapat Viaduct which is still in Pagudpud. It is basically a highway bridge that connects Ilocos province to Cagayan Valley. It is fondly called as the “French Riviera of the North”. While cruising along the highway, you will be amazed with the view of the sea and the mountains. 

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Patapat Viaduct
The scenic view from the bridge can really pass for a movie shooting location where the man chases the love of his life when she tried to run away by taking a bus. Haha.
We stopped for a while and took some photos as if there were no passing cars.

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with kaladkarin friends
And finally, I saw Bangui Wind Mills for the first time. The famous wind mills have been on much exposure in Philippines tourism ads and commercials. You will be awed to see that these wind mills are actually huge. From afar, you’d wonder if the blades are actually moving. Wait till you get close to it. You could hear the sound of the wind as it smashes against the turbines.

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Bangui Wind Mills
The Bangui Wind Mills are more than just a tourist attraction. It was built to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which causes global warming. The 20 wind turbines help in accelerating the rural electrification of the province as it also provides power supply in the Ilocos province.

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Really huge fan
We stopped by Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is also known as Burgos Lighthouse. The old lighthouse used to guide safely ships entering the Philippine archipelago from the north in the rocky coast of the town. 

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The lighthouse is tall at 65 ft. and it was breath catching to climb it up to the top. The view was definitely worth is as you can see the view of the province as well as Bangui Wind Mills on a clear sunny day.
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View from the lighthouse
We drove to Laoag City in mid-afternoon. Our flight back to Manila was at 6PM and we wanted to spare a few hours in the city to buy some souvenirs and savour Ilocano dishes. We had merienda at Saramsam Café.

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Saramsam Cafe
We also stopped quickly at the Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag which used to be a tall bell tower. It was said that it sank through time because the of the sandy foundation of the bell tower. It is something not to be missed as it is located upon entering the city proper.

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Sinking Bell Tower
Any trip wouldn’t be complete without any pasalubong. Our tour guide brought us to the local wet market for us to buy cheaper pasalubong. Of course, I didn’t miss to buy bagnet, chichacorn, suka, and bagoong.
 

Times flies fast when you’re having fun. At 6PM, we boarded the plane bound for Manila which brought us back to reality. I’m glad I made this trip with my closest travel barkada. We all agreed that this was our most sulit trip to date – sightseeing (check), friendly tour guide and comfy van (check), foodtrip (check), nice hotel and resort (check), BEACH (check), drinking session (check), pasalubong (check) and most of all budget (check). What can I say? This trip had it all.
 

Fun time in Ilocos (check)!

PS: Some of the pictures from my Ilocos blog entries were from my friend Gyles. Thanks Gyles! :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ilocos travel series: Ilocos Norte and more (day 2)

As much as we wanted to stay longer in Java Hotel for its unique ambiance, the second day of our northern exposure trip meant more sights to see. 

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I <3 Ilocos Norte

On the second day, we toured Ilocos Norte and its nearby sights. Our first stop was Marcos Mausoleum but taking photos of Marcos' preserved corpse (if it really it was) was not allowed.  We had the chance to view the late President Ferdinand Marcos' refrigerated corpse and it kinda looked like it was made of wax.  The nearby Marcos museum was closed for renovation so there isn't much to see. 

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Marcos' presidential plate numbers

Paoay Church is one of the grandest churches I’ve ever seen. If I were an Ilocano, I would probably want to get married here someday. From every angle, the church exudes a very elegant and grand façade. Paoay church is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list and known for its unique combination of baroque, gothic, and oriental designs. 

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Paoay Church

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Best travel barkada :)

A short walk from the Paoay Church is Herencia Cafe which serves one of the best pinakbet pizzas in the province. We ordered one for take-out. When in Herencia, the view of the church is really amazing. I can imagine people dining in the café and eating their pinakbet pizza while enjoying the view of the church after the Sunday Mass.

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Herencia Cafe
Then, we drove for another 30 minutes or so to Malacanang of the North. It is locally called ‘Malacanang ti Amianan’.  The Malacanang of the North is the official residence of the late President Ferdinand Marcos in Ilocos. It was constructed on a land projecting the Paoay Lake. 

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Malacanang of the North

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in the grand staircase
We toured around the house and saw the many rooms of the Marcos clan. I was surprised to know that the the former first couple has separate bedrooms in the house.

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Marcoses matrimonial bed
After touring most of the major sites in Ilocos Sur, we travelled to Pagudpud after lunch. We trekked to Kabigan Falls in 30 minutes and dipped in its very cool water and enjoyed our take-out pinakbet pizza from Herencia Cafe. 

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Kabigan Falls
And finally, we headed to Pagudpud which we were all looking forward to..beach!!!! We stayed at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Blue Lagoon (Maira-ira Beach). 

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Blue fishing boats in Pagudpud
Since everyone was so excited to hit the beach, we waited no longer to swim in Blue Lagoon’s inviting water. We owned the beach to ourselves. 

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Chillaz by the beach
The beach is just perfect as well as really intimate and perfect for those long walks in the beach, if you get what I mean :D Blue Lagoon is actually a beach cove so you can walk from one end of the cove to another.

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:)
We’d stop to appreciate the serenity of the place as well as the interesting rock formations. I don’t know, maybe we were just there on an off-peak so we had the beach to ourselves which is not bad at all.

If you're looking for a serene and white sand beach in the North, Pagudpud is the beach to be.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ilocos travel series: Vigan (day 1)

My friends find it hard to believe when I say I haven’t gone to Ilocos. With my regular weekend escapades, a place like Ilocos could be toured and squeezed into one weekend. So anyways, I finally crossed the Ilocandia region off my travel list when my friends and I impulsively booked for a promo flight (of course!).

My Ilocos travel was one of the more memorable and 'bang for the buck' trips I’ve made. 
We arrived at Laoag International Airport around 10am via Philippine Airlines. We were met by our tour guide and off we started our itinerary for the day. Thefirst thing on our list is Vigan and we traveled approximately 2 hours to get there. We got there lunch time and with rumbling stomachs we ate at the famous Café Leona.


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Cafe Leona
The food was absolutely delish but as you know that I like the food after the main meal. I ordered their tsokolate batirol. I love its very chocolatey taste and its bits.

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Tsokolate batirol
After our hearty lunch, we walked along Calle Crisologo and checked on some old houses and souvenir shops. Calle Crisologo is  a cobbled-stone street where you can see old Spanish houses dating back from the 18th century. It’s great to know that these antique houses have been preserved through time. It’s like walking in the past; the atmosphere at Calle Crisologo will make you feel that you are walking 300 years ago.


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Calle Crisologo
And yeah, we stopped for some ice cream to beat the afternoon heat.


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We want ice cream!
At the end of the half-kilometer street is the Crisologo museum/ancestral home. The Crisologos are one of the prominent families in the province aside from the Marcoses. The museum houses the family’s memorabilia and private collection, and some exhibit.


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Crisologo Museum
We then proceeded to the nearby Syquia Mansion owned by the family of the late President Elpidio Quirino. I am really fascinated with old houses. The two-storey and cream painted Syquia Mansion is a charming old house. You will be awed by the big sizes of bedrooms and the furniture are chosen with great flair. There was even a replica of the Spolarium in the house.


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Guided tour at Syquia Mansion
I also learned that the Quirino family stays here whenever they're in the province. The kitchen and dining room are modern and some rooms are well-maintained. Our tour guide shared that Cory Quirino, the late president’s granddaughter, stays in the ancestral house from time to time.


I love history so touring around Vigan and knowing gritty-bitty of history is a treat for me. I know! Call me nerd :P

I’m not sure if you have heard of Chavit Singson’s Baluarte in Vigan. It is a zoo where you can interact with the animals. At the same time, you can stroll in the animal sanctuary where some animals freely roam around. You’ll be amazed that all these sorts of animals which are endangered can be found at the Baluarte.


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Chavit Singson's Baluarte


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Rio!
There is no admission fee to the zoo so why not.

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Watcha lookin' at?

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Oh deer!

Our last stop for the day is Hidden Garden. The Hidden Garden is a plant and flower garden where you can find every kind of plant that grows on the soil and rocks as well as some hanging plants. They have a coffee shop where you can order your favorite fruit shake and Ilocos empanada.


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At Hidden Garden
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Ilocos empanada

After our day tour, we traveled back to Laoag City which will be our homebase for the night.  Day 2 of Ilocos tour is up next!