Silanguin Cove

Silanguin Cove: Getting Hooked on Zambales

My day was already made even before our boat hit the shore. We felt a slight tug from one of the fishing rods that stuck into the air like flag-less poles. Randy, our boatman for the day, rushed to the front and reeled in the morning’s first catch: a wahoo. “Tanguigue in Tagalog,” Harry, another companion, translated.

Our destination for that day was Silanguin Cove, the farthest of the newly “rediscovered” beaches in San Antonio, Zambales. While it bears many similarities with its neighbors, Silanguin is definitely the odd man out. While Nagsasa, Talisayin, and Anawangin are covered with volcanic ash, Silanguin is strewn with regular sand. It is not white-white. It’s not even beige. It is gray at best. But don’t judge the beach by its color. It has the most stunning backdrop. Reddish hills frame the cove, a stark contrast to their virid feet.

Randy, our boatman, reeling in a wahoo, our first catch!

Randy, our boatman, reeling in a wahoo, our first catch!

Silanguin Cove is tucked in a cape in Zambales, separated from the rest of mainland Luzon by a mountain range

Silanguin Cove is tucked in a cape in Zambales, separated from the rest of mainland Luzon by a mountain range

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Japanese flags waved instantly when the Emperor appeared.

THE EMPEROR’S NEW YEAR GREETING: Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

The crowd flooded through the gates of the Palace in an extremely organized fashion. There was plenty of space left and right, but people stayed on one side of the road as the queues snaked around the grounds. They were long lines, but they flowed smoothly. The only time we stopped was when we reached the two-step security inspection zone, where officers meticulously frisked and searched the bags of the visitors. Once past it, we sashayed our way over the bridge across the moat toward the Imperial Palace.

The queue meanders across the site toward the palace.

The queue meanders across the site toward the palace.

The Imperial Palace has received more than its share of criticism. It’s a tourist trap, some claim. Maybe. But not when it’s the second of January.

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One-bedroom suite

THE LINDEN SUITES ORTIGAS: Where to Stay in Manila (Splurge Option)

My dirty chucks looked awfully out of place on the carpeted floor of the suite. I removed them, threw my bag in a corner, and fell into the neatly fixed bed in the center of the room. I turned on the TV and tuned in to History Channel for a few minutes of geeking out before I headed back to the party in another suite.

My tired chucks.

My tired chucks.

In the next room were fellow travel bloggers, having a feast and sharing a night filled with videoke (karaoke) and endless conversations. Linden Suites Ortigas graciously hosted another pajama party for bloggers that night. I was one of them. It’s not often that I see people in the same line of work (if work is what you call what we do), so I took the opportunity to reconnect with them. While I walked in the hallway and basked in comfort as I sank in one of the couches, I could not think of a better venue for such a fun event.

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Farmers take their cattle to the rolling hills to let them graze.

VAYANG ROLLING HILLS, Batanes: In Pictures

The wind was both a friend and a bully.

The skies made its dominance felt by sending strong winds that whistled as they swept the landscape, making the grass and hedgerows bow down in submission. If I were in something looser, the northeast monsoon (amihan) would have probably taken me with it, too.

The place is called Vayang. The slopes of the rolling hills rise and dive gently, forming a crumpled terrain that is covered by grass, a food and rest sanctuary for cows, goats, and water buffalos. Embracing the splashes from the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Vayang Rolling Hills overlooks Chadpidan Beach, the boulder-filled western coast of Batan Island.

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South Batan

SOUTH BATAN TOUR: 12 Must-Visit Spots in Batanes

It was too much beauty in one place.

Batanes is the smallest province in the Philippines by land area and population, but it is in no way little when it comes to pulchritude. This 10-piece archipelago has so much of spectacular sights to offer to lucky, lucky visitors. A tour in Batan Island alone has the ability to make you question whether everything you see is real. Batanes is dreamy, fantastic, surreal.

South Batan

Of the three most popular tours in Batanes — North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang — the first was the least overwhelming, we were told. When we were already exploring the northern half of the island, we were dumbfounded. We were so blown away that we couldn’t imagine how it could be prettier than this. If South Batan is much more beautiful as others have claimed, I thought, then it must be a heck of a destination.

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Tukon Church is also known as Mt. Carmel Chapel

TUKON CHAPEL: A Promise Fulfilled in Basco, Batanes

When they were still alive, his parents dreamed of a chapel to which they could just walk. The nearest church then was the Basco Cathedral, more formally known as the Santo Domingo de Guzman Cathedral, which was three kilometers away. They did not make it long enough to see the chapel, but their son, Batanes representative Florencio “Butch” Abad, was able to make that vision a reality.

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Valugan Beach

VALUGAN BOULDER BEACH, Batanes: The Ferocious and the Pacific

It’s a masterpiece created by the elements. In 400 AD, Mt. Iraya erupted and scattered andesite rocks around the northern half of Batan, which is now Basco, from the fiery guts of the earth. The mighty wind from the Pacific pushing the waves to lap the rough rocks, polishing it in the process. The result: a boulder beach that we call now Valugan.

Valugan means “east” in the Ivatan language. Boulders fill the jagged eastern edge of Batan Island like marbles recklessly dumped in a corner. The elements here are at war. The wind is whistling, the sea slapping the shore, and sharp cliffs breaking the tides. Yet, there is something so trance-inducing about the whole action. Like the ironically named ocean it faces, Valugan Beach is absolutely pacifying.

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Philippine Travel Tax

8 Things You Could Buy with the P1620 Travel Tax

The most painful part of traveling to another country for me happens even before the trip begins. It’s that moment when you have to pay the PhP 1620 travel tax. I don’t mind paying taxes. It’s our obligation as responsible citizens. But it is painful. And it especially feels terrible when:

  • The travel tax is bigger than the actual airfare. My one-way ticket to Taipei last year was P1,170.
  •  You don’t know where it goes. You don’t see where it goes.
  • You have to stand in line for a looooooong time TWICE just to settle it. First, so the staff could write down your name on the receipt; second, for the actual payment at the cashier.

Last year alone, I traveled abroad from the Philippines six times. That’s PhP 9,720 in taxes (PhP 1,620 each time). Add the P550 terminal fee per trip: That’s around PhP 13,000. Thirteen effing thousand pesos from just one person.

On my last international trip, while waiting for boarding, I let it sink in. We don’t even have to use P13,000 as an example. A passenger traveling in economy pays P1620 each time. Think about what you could do with that money. To some, it might look like a small amount at first, but multiply that by the number of travelers and then by the number of times they travel — that’s A LOT OF MONEY.

Taking a cue from those Cornetto commercials, I began to wonder, “Hanggang saan ang mararating ng P1620 mo?”

Well, very far, apparently. While it cannot buy you, your friends, or this airport, that amount can pay for a number of simple things that can improve the airport experience a little bit. Here are some of them.

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"A person may only be asked to present further proof for his travel abroad if the person appears to have a reason different from what he has declared before an immigration official." -Bureau of Immigration via Interaksyon

HOW TO AVOID GETTING OFFLOADED: Airport Immigration Requirements and Tips

It’s a tourist’s biggest nightmare: not being allowed by Immigration Offials to board the plane. The trip ends even before it begins. Not only can it be humiliating, it also puts to waste everything invested on planning the trip: time, money, effort, emotions. And with the Bureau of Immigration putting in place stricter measures to combat human trafficking and prevent potential illegal aliens, they may need a little bit more convincing.

According to the Bureau of Immigration, every day around 40 people are offloaded at NAIA Terminal 1 alone. Most of them had the intention of seeking employment in their destination country without proper papers.

It’s been a highly controversial issue these days with some (myself included) questioning the constitutionality of the policy , as it goes against a Filipino citizen’s right to travel. Also, its vagueness makes it prone to abuse. But while we continue to discuss this in social media, the bureau has long been implementing this.

So, if you’re traveling to another country soon (especially if it’s your first time) and wish to breeze through the airport immigration process without incident, here are some things that could help:

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