Look how red and juicy they are!

LA TRINIDAD STRAWBERRY FARM: Heart-shaped Madness in Benguet, Philippines

Strawberries may be heart-shaped but these sweet little things are heartless. I walked cautiously in between the rows of strawberries, all the while being reminded of tragic love stories. They are sinful temptations dangling or lying on the ground, taunting you to pick them but at a certain cost. They urge you to come touch and pluck them from their frail branches even when you already have a basketful and you know it is all you can afford. And they deceive you by pretending to be berries — heck, they’re not even real fruits — and you buy anything they want to make you believe because, well, they are pretty.

Nevertheless, an affair with strawberries can be highly rewarding.

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Coron Travel Guide

The Budget Travel Guide to CORON and BUSUANGA, PALAWAN

It was like a giant bucket of paint spilled into the water that morning. Dazzlingly, the sun showered the world with a whole lot of gold and red. Half-awake, we got up and watched  our boat made futile attempts to scratch the mirror-like surface of the sea. The sun, bursting into full glory, just snatched us out of slumber completely. The day had officially begun and if the view was any indication, it would be an unforgettable one.

Coron Travel Guide

Photo by Irene Ladignon

We were on the way to Calauit Safari Park on an island-hopping tour around Busuanga that morning. It was the start of a long, long day as it would be filled with hours of great experiences. You see, the islands of Coron and Busuanga have so much in store for adventure-hungry tourists.

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Maquinit Hot Spring is surrounded by mangroves. Photo by Harry Balais

MAQUINIT HOT SPRINGS: Tub Therapy in Coron, Palawan

The Boiling Frog popped up in my head as soon as I took the first step into the pool. My reflexes instantly pulled my leg out of the water. It wasn’t lukewarm; it was scalding. Playing within 39 and 40 degrees Celsius, scalding may be exaggerating it, but it was almost unbearable at first dip. Blame the the unusually cold wind even though it was a mid-summer night. Still, I trod on and tiptoed to the middle of the pool. The heat had turned into warmth, and I allowed it to envelop my body as it began to sweep all my troubles away.

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La Inmaculada Concepcion Churh in Culion

Sunrise at Culion Church and Fortress, Palawan

I was able to beat my alarm clock. At five in the morning, I woke up from a short and shallow slumber, opened my eyes, got up and out of the bed, and then the alarm clock went off. It was one of those rare mornings that I was able to score against it. That’s how excited I was to start the day. I grabbed my camera and made my way to the church to watch the sunrise that Culion is starting to be known for.

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Where to go, where to go? Maybe Buddha has the answer.

6 Simple Ways to Avoid Getting Lost in a Foreign Country

What’s with men and asking for directions? How many times has this question been raised by friends traveling with me, I lost count. I can’t speak for all mankind but, in my case, just utter bashfulness and a dash of ego.

I used to think that I was just not wired to ask for directions. When I was starting to go places years ago, I was too shy to approach strangers for anything and relied only on myself to find my way around towns and cities — even if that meant wandering around unfamiliar blocks and dodgy alleys for hours. I thought I was always prepared anyway. But that’s the thing about traveling, you can never be prepared enough.

And that can’t be any truer in lands ruled by a different language.

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Canto

KETCHUP Food Community: Where to Eat in Baguio City, Philippines

My bowl was brimming with hot tom kha gai but the brewing envy inside me bubbled over through my eyes as I threw wanting looks at the other bowls and plates on our table. We were a big group, celebrating the recent success of the 2nd Baguio Blog Conference, where I gave a short talk. The organizers treated the speakers to dinner at Ketchup Food Community, a foodie’s haven that I had not tried before.

A relatively new dining destination, Ketchup Food Community was established in March 2012. It is actually a cluster of five small restaurants, each offering a different cuisine, perfect for those who want to try a plateful of everything in one seating.

  • Canto is a steakhouse famous for its lomo ribs;
  • Happy Tummy serves Thai favorites;
  • Rumah Sate boasts an Indonesian-Malaysian menu;
  • Green Pepper offers Western sandwiches and pastas;
  • Rancho Norte completes the list with their Filipino dishes.

The best part, you can order from any (or all) of them even without changing tables.

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edgar allan zeta yap

10 Philippine Travel Blogs You Should Read and Follow

It almost always happens. Whenever I finish giving a talk or lecture about travel blogging (and blogging in general), I am almost always asked which other travel blogs I read and recommend.

Travel blogs come in various forms, shapes, and colors and each has its own purpose. Some promote destinations by providing useful information (travel guides), some showcase incredible images (photo blogs), others chronicle their memorable trips (travelogues). Like most online users, I too am a fan of other travel blogs that help me plan my next trip or inspire me to travel more and write more, or both.

Here are ten of my absolute favorites in no particular order. (This list does not include blogs of friends who are very close to me.)

1. Eazy Traveler

eazy traveler

Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap is a wordsmith as well as a lensman. His photographs alone are enough to make me come back to his blog often (sometimes more often than he updates). But that’s not the only thing that makes Eazy Traveler the blogging gem that it is. Edgar has a way with words. He describes each place he visits with such clarity and precision that the place becomes a character, a driver, the type you are dying to know more about; and the writer becomes the vehicle. His articles are short but is never deprived of action — a brief encounter but always remarkable. In his posts, the place is alive and this life is what he brilliantly captures in his concise paragraphs and incredible photographs.

2. Langyaw

langyaw

Like most good things in this world, the articles on Langyaw.com are short and sweet. These bite-sized posts offer a glimpse to Estan Cabigas’s moments on the road. Estan prefers the road less traveled. His tone is always conversational and unpretentious, like a friend narrating in flurry a recent adventure or discovery. But this friend shares, not brags. And don’t get me started with his pictures.

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lusong coral garden

LUSONG SHIPWRECK AND CORAL GARDEN: Shallow Reverie in Coron, Palawan, Philippines

I can tell you a thousand reasons why I am not a diver, but they all boil down to one thing — fear. For a traveler who was born and raised in Batangas, a diving hotspot, I am unusually afraid of the dark and beautiful depths of the sea. Yes, it is the fear of deep water, of drowning, of death that has always kept me afloat, skimming only the surface of the water. For the longest time, I had been content with my snorkel and never had the thought of exchanging it for a diving gear entered my mind. Not until I got to Lusong.

coron coral garden

That’s my friend Mica floating over the coral garden

The sun had already set. Only its faint afterglow illuminated the skies, but Lusong Island continued to radiate a beauty that was both thirsty and soaked. Summer had left the coastal trees bare and naked, its leaves — dried and helpless — succumbing to the selfish gravity. That time, their branches stretched into a heavy entanglement that crowned the island.

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The famous strawberry shortcake

CAFE BY THE RUINS: Where to Eat in Baguio City, Philippines

My fingers flipped the pages straight to their list of house specialties. One look and I knew I would be having my most expensive lunch in years at this restaurant. The prices were intimidating, almost threatening, and I was just used to the affordable meals of Baguio City’s most reputable dining establishments.

Still, after a long tug-o-war between the frugal and the piggish sides of myself, I allowed the latter to take over the decision-making. Pinikpikan, bagnet, and strawberry shortcake, please.

My friend Mica reading her time away while waiting for our meals

My friend Mica reading her time away while waiting for our meals

The long wait allowed me and my friend Mica to take a look at our surroundings. Cafe by the Ruins is smack at the heart of the city but it still manages to create a forest-ish ambiance. The bamboo fences, wooden furniture, and unevenly paved floor work together to add a more rustic charm to the al fresco arrangement of the place. The artful pieces that adorn the corners and walls are a nice touch and, during our visit, was a good distraction from the otherwise unbearably long wait. Thank heavens for attentive waiters who continued to fill and refill our glasses with water, even without us asking.

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View from the fan room

TAMETA PENSION HOUSE: Where to Stay in Coron, Palawan, Philippines

If I ever wondered what it would feel like to stay inside an oven, I would have had an idea on my first day in Coron, Palawan. Summer had just started but it already felt like we were in the inner layers of hell. Mind you, Coron is infinitely beautiful but the late March heat had turned the ground into frying pans and we were but seared meat. That’s why, looking back, I don’t understand why I chose to stay in a fan room that day. Ah, I know — budget.

We booked a room at Tameta Pension House, a not-so-well-known inn. Thing is, it lies just opposite the popular Patrik and Tezz Guesthouse, which was fully booked that time. The owner suggested that we stay at nearby Tameta instead. It was a good decision even though it did not feel like it within our first few hours of staying there.
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