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Posts tagged “travel

Exploring the Hundred Islands, Pangasinan in Black & White

Tell me anyone who isn’t captivated by colors, and I’d say he or she is more than blind. Even the blind are fascinated by colors. I once had a job interview for a BPO company which had an account serving the visually-challenged, and one of the (tough) questions was how I could explain colors to people who do not posses the sense of sight. I don’t remember now how and what I replied, but if you’re curious, I didn’t get the job– not entirely because of my answer, I suppose. Back to colors, though.

Recently, I saw an episode (entitled “In Living Color“) of Brain Games on National Geo, and it claimed that “color is just an illusion created by the brain.” It further explained “the colors that we perceive inside our brains—and the significance that we attach to them—sometimes diverge from the wavelengths of light that exist in reality.” Sounds technically complicated, right? But watching the entire show, I could only say “creepy,” learning that our own brain was just actually fooling us and that there are certain things, and people, in our environment that we don’t know are messing with our perception of things. In short, what we see is not what we really get… especially when it comes to color, which also plays our mind. It isn’t all bad, though, as we can manipulate it, too, to our advantage. Also, the ideas pointed out in the presentation can mean that there is really no “color blindness,” only that the people with the said condition have a set of colors different from the ones ordinary people know; the same thing goes with the visually impaired who might be seeing hues that others are void of. And I could have had a more impressive response in the interview had I known these points early.

There were several other “truths,” interesting experiments, and cool games (!) presented in the episode that you would want to watch for yourself, if you haven’t, to understand more how color works, or to just pass your time exclaiming “oh, cmon.” But the thing that stood out for me was the reality that we live in color, and we hardly acknowledge the beauty of it unless we are a child receiving our first box of Crayola excitedly taking out our coloring books, a painter contemplating in front of a canvas, a lady accepting a bouquet of roses and saying yes to the giver (another trivia: red is the color of high-level of testosterone, while yellow is sex), or a photographer (professional or a wanna-be like me) detailing every single little thing, even dirt, as something significantly beautiful. And why not? Every thing that exists is beautiful. Sprinkle a little more color, then that thing will come alive.

Naturally, we are drawn to vibrant colors. The more hues there are, the more attractive the objects are. However, every shade affects our emotion and brings significance to how we view life. I love how the clean blue sky littered with white clouds on bright days calms me, how the changing of blue seas to green when I come near it elicits my sense of wonder, and how a yellow banana gives me hope for a better health. Then again, based on the Nat Geo show, I’m just tricked. But so what?

In lieu of the “color” topic, I have had two weeks going back and forth deciding for my post (like it was a more important thing to decide on than what shirt color goes well with colorful platform pumps) about an enchanting place I visited two weeks ago.  It was the waters, nature, landscape, and they would surely be laid out pretty in their color. However, this black-and-white theme has been tempting me, too. I have tried a little of it in some posts, and I’ve thought of doing an entire photography post applying only the said style. I used to be judgmental about photo bloggers who utilized the monochrome effect. I thought they were taking away the life of the scene or the subject. In contrast, I adored those who have nice, fancy cameras and color editing tools that make their works stand out. But I’ve come to know black-and-white better, thanks to blog.mingthein.com and  a walk with my camera, and to WordPress, in general. I’ve gotten hooked to the crispiness and texture the theme captures and have learned a little about what subjects go well with it. Now, I like both types of photography, color-wise. I know they say, you have to be faithful to one style so that you’ll give an identity to your blog, and that it’s either you’re black or white. But I’d say, why not black AND white?

I’m afraid my chatter above has overshadowed the subject of this post, which is The Hundred Islands Park in Pangasinan, Philippines. I wouldn’t want to showcase it less, despite using the black-white theme. Trust me you can find more than a hundred reasons to love the place if you are keen like us, photographers (wink wink). And even if there are only two colors present, the scenes are enough to signal your brain where to pop out the blue, the green, and the “wow.” And who knows? They might not really be only black and white as they appear to be.

 

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Lucap Wharf, the entry point to the islands. Where you register at the local Tourism office (P80) and find a boat and accommodation and sign up for activities. Of course, there are outside spotters whom you can bargain with.

 

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Boats loitering the area. The tower is one of the prominent spots that visitors could climb before; now, according to the trike driver, it was with electrical wires, so don’t attempt.

 

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Arriving late afternoon, we immediately ventured into our first set of islands. There are two sets of service boats: P800 for the three most popular (and populated) islands, and the other P1400 for islands-all-you-can.

 

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I asked one of our boat guys if he was still amazed of the sights, he said he’s used to them. But I think this boy above, who was the son of our main guide, still had that sense of awe.

 

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And who wouldn’t be delighted by the eerie yet inviting scenery tempting you to explore what is behind and beyond it.

 

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Quezon Island: one of the three main islands where swimming is ideal because of the absence of big rocks in the water. The other two are Children’s (ideal for children’s swimming) and Governor’s, where you can climb to a 126 steps cemented stairs to have a glimpse of the stunning islets.

 

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Being only four to five hours away from Manila, the place is a favorite location for mermaid-themed movies and TV series.

 

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This was once the house of local TV’s “Big Brother.” The sign wasn’t anymore there, but Kuya is (spot him).

 

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This was one of the roughest part of the sea where our middle-sized boat almost jumped up and down. The guide said the other side, not so far from where we were, was already part of the South China Sea.

 

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One of the highlights of the trip. Seeing the sun set so close I could almost reach it. Maybe I was overreacting, but the hues, the feel, the mystery of how it was there and how I was here made me shed some tears. I watched the sun till it disappeared from my sight.

 

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Some caving the next day.

 

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The Bat Island. The bats were outside their cave and basking in the sun but asleep,  mimicking the twigs and leaves of the almost-barren tree.

 

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This kid, eight. Sunshine. That’s her name. While we put on helmets just to see the view underwater, she effortlessly jumped to the big ocean and into the surface below playing with the fish which also seemed to enjoy her company. She also accompanied me in some short trekking and in the shallow waters while laughing at my inability to swim. I jokingly bribed her P20 to get my camera from the boat, but she insisted P50. I refused and had her brother get it for me, and then she raced with him to get it ending up crying when her brother got the camera first, but the brother pissed by her crying gave it to her eventually. She settled for P20 (seriously, it was part of our tip; she and her two brothers went with her father who was our boatman/guide; when we finished the tour, her mother was waiting for them in a pedicab full of souvenir items; she was also waiting for us and sold us some; the simplicity of their life despite the apparent day-to-day struggles that have made them stick together as a family is one miracle these days). She enjoyed being my photographer. I asked if she had Facebook and thank God, she didn’t know it yet. But I hope she would not be content of where she was; seeing her assertiveness and strong will, I have faith she’d go great places.

 

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One of the activities: helmet-diving. Since scuba diving needs certification first, we settled for this, and it was nonetheless breath-taking. I am scared of the deep water, do not know how to swim, and do not want to die. My brave friend motivated me to do it, saying “we’re already here, what is there to be afraid of.” I screamed “a lot” in my mind, but the next thing I knew, one of the diver-guides pushed me already while the other held my helmet for a while as I descended, maybe noticing that I forgot the instructions. And there it was– absolute beauty. Fish coming to my direction, Nemos, big clams I tried to touch, the sand underwater that my feet could still feel, the sounds below even if the pressure was paining my ears, the thrill that overcame my fear. It was love. At first dive. But I had to go up to scream how I was feeling that time.

 

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And then, I got kissed by a fish. Or my helmet.


Baguio’s Finest

Baguio in the Philippines is a popular destination for tourists and fresh produce buyers. The city’s six to seven hours north of Manila. And it was my first time to visit the city a month ago. I was lucky to catch the last week of its Panagbenga (Flower) Festival. The parades were over, but a friend told me it was just fine to miss them since I might not be able to handle the crowd anyway. It was still pretty crowded because of bazaars, exhibits, and shows and because of the fact that it’s a touristy area. I, together with my co-worker, checked out most of the common spots through commute and a lot of asking. Many have been written and shown about Baguio, but since it was my first visit there, all that the place allowed me to experience in two days were definitely unique. The cold, the houses by the cliffs, the pine trees, the touch and smell of the wind, and the way it calmed my system make me want to come back there soon.

There are a lot more to showcase, but below are some of the things that delighted my sight.

PARKS, PLACES, & PINE TREES

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Burnham Park. stroll, bicycle, boat your way to a stress-free afternoon as the lovely trees and calming breeze embrace you.

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People are waiting from morning for a show of the stars of a hit pre-afternoon TV series. The stars came out in the evening.

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Lourdes Grotto. The place, which also serves as a retreat center, is Jesuit-owned.

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The sights at the Mines View Park.

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Mansions as stunning as the question of how they were built just along the edges and cliffs, and the fear for earthquakes.

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The Baguio Cathedral.

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The Botanical Garden.

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Wright Park. If you want to enjoy some horse-back riding. We witnessed somebody falling hard, though, when we passed by it on our way back from the Mansion.

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I gave myself a thumb-up, too, as it was my first time to ride a horse without falling, although I did it with a guide. Nevertheless, a thumb-up. (but no same smile as the kid’s)

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The path leading to the Mansion. Who’s mansion? The president’s, when he or she is having some time off.

COLORFUL BUYS

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A mix of delightful, delicious, religious, random, and sometimes obscene stuff for sale. Most are from Session Road.

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Baguio Night Market, Harrison Road.

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BLOOMS, BEES, & ALL THAT’S BEAUTY

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We’ve also visited other sites like the PMA camp, Tam-awan Village, and the markets. Unfortunately, my camera’s battery ran out. The first two were also interesting places despite their distance from the city proper. And if you want to try fresh, affordable vegetables, fruit, daing na bangus, longganisa, and others, then don’t miss out Baguio’s big market.

Summer has kicked off, and I think the sunny smile of the flower above should convince you enough that Baguio is one of the destinations that should be in your list.


Hello, 2014: 14 (Un)Posted from 2013

 

 

 

 

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quezon.manila.camarines sur.ilocos.rizal.bohol.PHILIPPINES.

i’m ready for you, 2014.


Commuting in Malaysia (2013)

Although I’ve realized I don’t have patience in documenting travels in its finest details, I still decided to have this mini-guide as a pay-it-forward post. One key to our safe, fun, and meaningful travel this summer was thorough preparation. And I am thankful to all the blogs I had read prior to the trip. Before our flight, I printed locations and directions for our itineraries and even some translations of common phrases, which I was not able to use because reading and trying to utter them while in a rush were a goal not so easy to achieve. But just like any perfect preparation, a perfect outcome is not always guaranteed. There were bumps and rolls, but they were the ones that really “made” the EXPERIENCE and led us to new learnings about other people, the world, and ourselves.

We got lost. Several times. We walked some kilometers. We were sent to the Immigration office. We got nervous. We waited for delayed trips. We got hungry doing so. We sailed through an unstable boat over a little wavy sea. We screamed of joy. We were glorious. We learned.

Leaving Singapore. Leaving Singapore the night after our travel’s first day, my cousin and I were all chin up taking pride in going around the city with our own effort. After our quick freshening up at the hotel, we were all set to head to Woodlands Train Station for our Malaysia tour. With all the places I took note of, I didn’t know that I was not able to write the exact location of the terminal (Queen Street Bus Terminal) where we would take a bus going to the train station. Despite that, we asked the hotel and gave us directions clear enough to not have any fears of getting lost. We were still proud anyway of our day escapades, thus, the confidence. To cut the story short, we were not able to find it. All those we asked didn’t know, too. Inside, I was already panicking thinking of our train’s departure time even if it was still four hours early. My cousin’s calm disposition convinced me to just take the MRT on top of my contemplating to just take a cab. We still took a short taxi ride from the Woodlands MRT station to Woodlands Checkpoint, the departure/Immigration point. We were thankful we arrived two hours early. We headed to the line we saw we thought was the Immigration line. It was. Unfortunately, when we finally passed it, trains or the railroad was nowhere to be seen. A sight of jam-packed buses welcomed us instead. Although it was not allowed to re-enter the Immigration Exit door, I gathered all my guts and approached the officers already looking toward our direction. We had the wrong checkpoint, and our passports were already stamped on. We were brought to the Immigration office with no idea of what would happen to us. The one thing that was a shock to us was the friendliness and kindness of the Singaporean officers. Throughout the entire time of that nerve-wrecking ordeal, we never felt being looked down or being questioned in a criminal-way-of (the way some of our kababayans reported feeling in the hands of our own Immigration). We were instead assisted in an almost VIP manner. I don’t know if it was God, but I believe it was Him.

Malaysia: Selamat Datang. The checkpoint we went to was apparently for those who would take the bus (labeled Woodlands Checkpoint) to Johor Bahru, the entrance to Malaysia, where the actual train was. We arrived early (2 hours before the 11:30 PM trip) that we didn’t realize we already passed by the departure gate for the train passengers (labeled Woodlands Train Checkpoint) because it was not open and there were no lines yet. Most blogs I read advised taking the bus to Johor Bahru, then the KTM train to Kuala Lumpur because of the ticket’s cost. Taking the train from SG Woodlands to KL Sentral, like what we did, was almost triple the price of the other way (P1530 as opposed to P635). I didn’t take the advice because I was thinking of avoiding the hassles considering the fact that we already commuted a lot during the day. We still took two trains though. The first train, an old-looking and dirty seater train, took us only to Johor Bahru. From there, we took the real one, the comfortable sleeper train I booked for online through Malaysia’s KTM site, and got our passports marked by Malaysia’s Immigration. By the way, they no longer sell the train ticket from Woodlands to JB like what they used to, so one just really has to go to JB by bus. The train tickets can be purchased 60 days prior to the travel. I booked ours 2 weeks before, that was why I wasn’t able to get the Class A deluxe cabin that has its own shower and toilet. Nonetheless, it was a ride that brought us a good sleep.

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ideal to take the lower berth. wider and easy to get in and out.

We arrived at around 7 AM and looked for officers who might want to check our things or passports, but there were none. Although I read that our hotel (MyHotel Sentral) was just a 5-10 minutes walk from the train terminal, we, feeling exhausted still from our previous day’s walks and mishaps, decided to just take a cab (MR8/around P80). They already had an organized system for their terminal cabs, which was good because there were complaints regarding taxi drivers doubling up the fare for tourists. Now, one has to pay for the cab prior to riding it at a booth just beside the exit door of the terminal. We didn’t need to take a cab again going to the KTM terminal/train station once we got to our hotel and learned the way to and from. We utilized ML’s train system a lot. It was similar to Singapore’s, easy to learn.

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KL Day Tour. When we arrived at our hotel, their Filipina staff advised us to just take the guided tour they were offering because she said it would be difficult to hop from one place to another. According to her, the tourist spots were not near the MRT stations and that it would take us much time. We agreed to it especially that she also helped us check in earlier (sometimes, it’s great to know someone). Check out Malaysia 2013: Kuala Lumpur to see some of the places (MR25/P250: from 2PM to around 6PM) you might want to visit yourself. However, as expected, we were brought to some shops mandatory to tour drivers. The shops were cool though, especially the Chocolate Factory where we tasted different kinds of chocolate for free.

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A very enthusiastic driver/tour guide. Wouldn’t allow us to alight unless we listen to his “historical” background of the place. Also gets pissed if we come back late. jokingly.

To Pangkor Island. The part I was looking forward to the most– the beach! This was on our second day in ML. From KL Sentral Station, we headed to Pudu Sentral (Puduraya) for the terminal of the buses going to Lumut, the ferry station to Pangkor. Once in Pudu Sentral, a mall-like terminal, or maybe it’s a mall, some fellows approached us guiding us to their buses’ fare booths. We followed one. The guy was harmless and not a fixer. The ticket cost us MR25/P250 and almost 5 hours of being stuck in the bus, but the scenery was relaxing and my friend and I had the time catching up with the-whats and the-whos in our lives.

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Lumut Jetty. The ferry station to Pangkor. One return ticket cost MR13/P130 and a 30-40 minutes refreshing ride. I actually wished it was a longer journey.

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Pangkor Island. I still can feel the cool breeze and hear the sound of the soothing sea. But whose eyes would not be caught by the pink cabs? From the Pangkor jetty, a pink cab (MR15/P150; 15-20 minutes) took us to our hotel (Nipah Bay Villa). There were nearer and more luxurious hotels and resorts in the island with activities provided, like the Pangkor Island Beach Resort. But of course, it was beyond our budget.

IFSo, we did it our way again. After we had our things dropped in our hotel, ate, and unwind a little, we walked around, and we were checking out some tarpaulins of offered activities, when a guy approached us and started selling his island services, I mean, island-hopping, snorkeling, etc. (MR15/P150). We said yes. It was already 4PM and we didn’t want to waste any time.

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Back to Kuala. I wouldn’t want to leave the island yet especially that there are non-sea/land attractions there that were included in our itineraries like temples and the Dutch Fort ruins, but we still had some places in mind to visit in the city. The next day, after a quick breakfast at a KFC chain somewhere in Pangkor Jetty (we were so excited seeing a KFC there), we hesitantly bid farewell to our short affair with the waters of Pangkor. Back in the city, we were thinking of visiting KLCC’s Aqua Place, the Butterfly Gardens, Lake Gardens, and a mosque to go inside it. Unfortunately, the security officer we asked at the train station told us the mosque was under renovation. We opted not to go, too, to the Oceanarium because of its high cost as we were already leaving the city that night and just having been in the sea. We were left with the gardens. Their place was hard to locate. No near MRT stations or buses. We took the cabs. Thrice. But still, we weren’t able to see the Butterfly Gardens. We were brought to the Bird Park with an expensive entrance fee. In the end, we just took this wooden shuttle to check out the Lake Gardens. The place was promising based on the blogs I read, but for us, there was nothing extra special here. Maybe, it would be fine if you are a resident there having a day to have a literal walk-in-the-park. We enjoyed the cool ride, though, while mocking ourselves for going there.

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This shuttle passes through the Lake Gardens, the Bird Park, some mosque, etc.

Leaving Malaysia. My cousin and I took the train back to Singapore that night while my friend had her flight back to Thailand. We had our freshening up at the station after getting our luggage in the hotel and we were also able to charge our batteries for free while waiting for our 11:30 PM trip. The train was delayed for about 30 minutes. One interesting happening was that we met this guy, a backpacker who has traveled some countries already. My cousin blatantly candidly asked if he was rich. He said he wasn’t but he worked, then saved, then spent his savings on travel, and that he’s happy doing it. Interesting happening because I was trying to think if it was God’s sign for me, His way of making me realize that I had to do something already if I’m not entirely content anymore with my present environment. Lots of risks. Or maybe it wasn’t a sign, just a random incident (?), and I am getting off my topic now.

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waiting. the balcony was for the Class A Deluxe passengers.

Summing up my 2013 summer travel, I can say it was humbling. I wouldn’t take the pride of being able to travel as a green light to being reckless. It taught me to be bold by being more careful and by thinking through my actions, to plan but to expect that not everything happens according to plan, and to rise with my values and true identity and with the people beside me. The sights, the walks, the rides– sums up a worthwhile experience which will always remind me of a blessed life no matter how the daily journey seems flat.

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Two blogs I over visited during the planning stage (ML):

The Man In Seat Sixty-One

Escape Traveler


Malaysia 2013: Pangkor Island

For me, traveling in a foreign country is not complete without a trip to one of its beaches. Last year, I had the chance to see Pattaya in Thailand. See, because I didn’t swim. It was a refreshing experience, nonetheless. Researching about Malaysia’s beaches during the planning stage of our tour this year, I was overwhelmed with the many mesmerizing ones I discovered. One that I was trying to include in our trip was Langkawi, but it was like a day of travel by land from Kuala Lumpur, and considering our very limited time, it would just eat up our time in this country. The nearest to KL is Pangkor, and I can say, no matter how short our time there was, being in this serene island is the best part of our Malaysia experience. Want some proof? Let me just get visual one more time.

IF Malay and Tagalog have many similar words. When I saw “Selamat,” I thought it meant “Thank you” being similar to our own “Salamat.” In Malay, it meant “Welcome” instead.  And very welcomed, we were.

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We stayed at Nipah Bay Villa. The streets had this very laid-back feel despite the obvious commercialism in the area.

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Of course, a tour won’t be complete without some of these items. We already bought a lot of souvenirs in the city, and we somehow regretted it because the items here were way cheaper.

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We had one of this fried for our dinner while listening to some local troubadour. MR28 or PHP380. A bit costly for us, but the cheapest in the bunch.

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After our breakfast-slash-lunch-slash-snack when we arrived at the island at around 3PM, we did a little island hopping. For MR15 or PHP200 per person, we were taken to some interesting spots. We had our swimming and picture-taking time in Coral Island. Thanks to our nice boat guy who helped us climb and go down the steep and slippery sea boulders. He also tried teaching us how to snorkel, but I was a little child too scared to swallow some sea water.

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See the crocodile?

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How about the turtle? The two above are the same rock or boulder. Its front and back sides.

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Some fish feeding.

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Passing by some scenic views.

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My favorite shot.

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I wonder how a tree like this can grow on sand.

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At dusk, the waves got a little stronger. My friend realized later on that her slippers she left somewhere were already gone.

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A friendly hornbill.

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Best in rope climbing and swinging.

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The child in us.

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I thank these two for being the wings in my travel. And we vowed that we would “fly” some more.


Malaysia 2013: Kuala Lumpur

Some of the colors, brilliance, and interesting heights of Kuala Lumpur. Go, explore the rest.

National Mosque/Old Railway Station Area

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KL City Gallery, Jadi Batek Gallery, Lake Gardens Area, and a Chocolate Factory (with free taste!)

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Istana Negara Mosque (where the Sultan King lives)

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Batu Cave

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KLCC Mall Area and the Different Colors of the Petronas Towers

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Singapore 2013

Singapore is one of the most tourist-populated countries. Although it was not one of my dream destinations (because I know it’s very easy to reach it because of its proximity to my country if I got the means), I was more than pleased with my experience in this very trusting, clean, and organized country. In fact, I quite regret that we spent only two days here and would have loved to visit it again for more days. I know there’s more to the “Merlion City.” Nonetheless, with our hectic itineraries, we were able to check out the most “go-to” places in the city. This post I hope can help those who are planning to travel there this 2013 or in the near future with the updated locations, appearance of the locations, and average expenses.

My cousin and I toured Singapore on May 15 and 19. (The in-between days were spent in Malaysia, which I will share about in a separate post). We left on the night of the 14th via Cebu Pacific (a budget airline from the Philippines). I booked the flight way ahead, December 25 (making it a sort-of Christmas present for myself), and the total cost for 2 adults was PHP13, 260.60 (USD316.19). This excludes the travel tax, which is PHP1, 620, and the terminal fee, which is PHP550. All the months after that I spent planning, reading blogs, working extra, and saving to make the trip a success. Last year, when we traveled to Thailand, we were on guided tours, but this time, we decided to do it our own way, avoiding tours that would take us to a souvenir shop each time.

The only places included in our original itineraries (planning stage) that we weren’t able to go to because of the lack of time were the Marina Bay Observation Deck and Chinatown. Since I was the one in-charge of reaching the places, I readied all printed pages of locations and directions (my cousin though was better at remembering the places and exact locations in our return trips). Although not all of them took us smoothly to our destinations, they were a great help nonetheless, assisting us not to totally get lost and waste time in being so. Another big help was our “kababayans” (fellow Filipinos) who were very kind in helping us with the locations every time we asked. At the moment we arrived at the airport waiting for our shuttle, a Filipina working there, sitting beside us, chatted with us and was already telling us what to visit without us even asking. Even non-Filipinos were also generous in sharing information about the locations despite the language difficulties. And so, you will never really get lost in this country even if you go there not with a travel agency, but of course, you should be open to challenging yourself. Our travel was a combination of physical and mental exercise, and we can say we are glad we did it our way.

So, what would fit in the two days touring Singapore on a budget? Would it still be “quality”? For us, I’m happy the answer is yes.

DAY 1

I had booked online a budget hotel months ahead via Agoda. Despite complaints against  this company, I was fully satisfied with their service. Maybe, the early booking did it. Fragrance Hotel-Pearl in the Geylang area (one night, 2 persons: PHP2,309.22/USD54.83) was cozy and good enough considering our quick stay (we got there at 1 AM and left at 7 AM; fast check-in and check-out; friendly staff; with complimentary coffee and water but no soaps). We got there from the airport through the airport shuttle (SD9/PHP297.12) in around 40 minutes. For the shuttle, just approach the Ground Transport Desk; way cheaper than a taxi that would cost around SD20-30/PHP600-900).

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We left our luggage after checking-out for our day tour (no fee). There were no restaurants just beside the hotel so we had to walk 8-10 minutes to look for an affordable place to have our breakfast. A few blocks ahead, there were a series of Chinese food stalls. We had a set similar to the staple Filipino breakfast: fried rice, spam, and egg, plus coffee (SD3/PHP100). Their coffee was not with cream, but with milk. It was my first time to drink up a glassful of coffee (I’m a half-a-glass-of-coffee-a-day type). It wasn’t in our itineraries, but walking around the area served as the first thing in it because we feasted our eyes with a street of adorable Chinese houses and temples.

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After charging ourselves with food that we hoped to last until dinner, we set our feet again for the MRT station. It took us around 10-15 minutes looking for it dropping by a 7-11 store to buy some biscuits and water (SD4/PHP133). My research correctly took us to Aljunied Station. From there, we got a stored-value ticket (first top-up: SD7/PHP233), asked for some directions (we were also given a mini MRT map), and read our way to our first stop: cable ride. Their train system was in colors representing each line. The lines were interconnected, so if the destination is off the line, there was no need to go out of the station and swipe the ticket anew, but just transfer to another line by just following signs. Easy to navigate. My cousin said she could already be a tour guide here because in just one day, via the MRT system, we were already very knowledgeable of the city. One difference of the MRT here and in our country was that there were no inspections of bags and baggage here. Maybe it was because of a lot of closely monitored CCTV. Or their very trusting quality.

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From Aljunied Station (Green Line), we alighted at Outram Park Station and transferred to another train (Purple Line) going to Harbour Front, one station away, our destination, where Sentosa was.

It was my first time to ride a cable car (SD23/PHP764.55), although it wasn’t my first being suspended feet away from the ground (zipline experience), and this wasn’t scary at all. I just had to enjoy the scenery below us, all that our eyes could reach, and the feeling being up on the air. One thing though: I don’t know why the cable wasn’t air-conditioned. Imagine the heat.

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The cable brought us to Sentosa. After some freshening up because we were all sweaty with all the walking and the heat inside the cable, we started to locate Universal Studios. We learned it was nowhere near and waited for the free shuttle going around the Sentosa area. We were also looking for the entrance where SENTOSA was written (for photo op, of course), and hopped off on a beach part where there were colorful letters standing spelling the name of the place. It turned out it was Siloso Point. We took our pictures anyways. Exploring Sentosa wasn’t really in our plan, so we just hopped on the bus again to finally head to Universal Studios.

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After the bus stopped at a parking lot, we read some signs and found the escalator going up to where Universal was. And so, we saw the great blue, round landmark.

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After being fully satisfied taking our photos in that huge globe, we headed to the main entrance of the park. It was 10 AM and it was getting crowded already. Families, friends, students, different nationalities, colorful people– another thing I like about traveling. There were cute little kindergarten kids who were very disciplined walking hand in hand while being guided by their teachers. I opted not to post my shot here.

We didn’t have to fall in line since I pre-booked our tickets online. Using MasterCard, I got a discount and paid SD63/PHP2, 094 (one person) instead of the original SD74/PHP2, 460 price. Also, there was a SD5/PHP167 meal voucher with that ticket.

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The above is a panoramic view of one part of the park.

Due to time constraints and the lack of an adventurous spirit that day, we did not ride the death-defying attractions and contented ourselves with the kiddie rides. And I still enjoyed them.

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We loved this colorful bus. A lot of souvenir stalls shaped like some famous vehicles, characters, and stuff from popular Hollywood movies were all over the place. Sights to behold, but we had to hold our pockets :).

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Spaghetti Space Chase: a colorful and crisscross train ride inside.

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The old-civilization part of the park was one of my favorites. Sphinxes, libraries, mummy heads, statues of great philosophers, and that “ancient feel.”

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Bumblebee, right?

One of the things I looked forward to was The Kingdom of Far, Far Away and meeting my favorite ogre, Shrek.

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We walked inside the castle, but there was no Shrek yet.

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My most favorite part of our day here was the 4D movie (my first time) inside Shrek’s dungeon. Dizzied, wet, and spooked. It was great being part of Shrek’s world for 30 minutes.

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But Shrek was nowhere still when we got out of the dungeon. Instead, there was this grouchy Pinocchio.

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I wasn’t able to meet Shrek. Maybe, he already passed the area and we missed him. 😦 Next time.

But hey, there was Marilyn. I heard her saying to us when we approached her “dressed for the occasion.” I didn’t get the entire part of it. She’s cool.

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And last, we had Po.
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Our initial plan was not to take lunch anymore since we had full breakfast and we were not really hungry, but we had to use our meal vouchers, so we went inside this cafe and had this simple meal (we added SD8/PHP267 each).

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When we left Universal Studios, the entrance girl told us to mark our wrist in case we decide to come back later that afternoon.  We declined because we knew we wouldn’t be able to anymore. To get your money’s worth though, spend an entire day here.

Around 1 PM, we left and readied ourselves again for finding our next planned stop: The Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck. We took our return cable ride to Harbour Front Station. But we took the wrong MRT line after and spent almost an hour in the ride, so we decided to just proceed to the Singapore Flyer. Since we took the Yellow Circle Line, we alighted at Promenade Station and just followed the signs to the Flyer, not a difficult thing to spot even if you’re far. The only challenge was what street to cross, but asking here and there, we didn’t have much difficulty, too.

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Those weird yet amazing white structures were Gardens by the Bay’s. What’s inside them, you can see at the Day 2 part of this post.

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The Flyer (SD33/PHP1, 102) was similar to the cable ride experience as it gave us a splendid view of the city. Only that, it was a wider view this time and more scenic spots to marvel at. It was 30-40 minutes experience, and we satisfied taking pictures of ourselves with different poses and angles and areas inside the spherical container. We were with a couple, so imagine how I imagined being romantic, too, with my Ethan Hawke or James Franco or Ted Mosby (Richard Gere, for my cousin).

The only thing we regretted about not going to the Marina Bay Deck was the view of their infinity pool. Again, next time (hopeful!).

We walked some blocks after and reached a river cruise station. It was a weekday, so there were not a lot of tourists cruising. We were only two pairs in our boat.

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We had all the space to ourselves. The 20-30 minutes cruise (SD22/PHP735) was the city at eye level. The river was not clear blue or green but didn’t have a stinky smell. There was no actual tour guide but a taped commentary that we could hardly hear and we didn’t care listening to anyways. The boat guy, who was incidentally a fellow Pinoy, was the one giving us a chit-chat about the city. He was also recommending some places to visit at night and we just said we might but didn’t anymore expound that we were leaving Singapore in the evening. I think an overnight stay would really be nice, too, but we had already booked our exit train tickets.

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At this time, my digital camera already died (Nikon’s S8200’s battery life has failed me; I always fully charge it but it doesn’t last the whole day). I was taking pictures using my cousin’s Canon digicam.

These statues of kids jumping into the river were very realistic.

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We weren’t able to go by foot to the famous Merlion landmark, but the river passed by there. There were lots of people that late afternoon thinking of what crazy pose to have with the Merlion in their background. As for us, we timidly pose with it behind us hoping the boat would go much slower so our smile could be picture-perfect.

With the mini-cruise, we also got to see other popular landmarks: the Fullerton Hotel, Clark Quay, Marina Bay, and other amazing structures in the city.

At dusk, we were ready to go back to the hotel to pick our luggage and clean up a little. We asked the boat to drop us off at the Bayfront station. From there, we walked 10-15 minutes to get to the MRT station.

We were proud of ourselves because our first Singapore day was successful despite the busyness of it. But the story changed that evening when we headed to the train station leaving the country (separate post).

DAY 2

We arrived from Malaysia at 7 AM on the fifth day of our travel.  (By the way, we already had a newly topped up stored value ticket at this point). From the train station/Woodlands Checkpoint, we took a taxi (SD4/PHP134) to the Woodlands MRT Station (Red line) to get to Changi airport (Green line). From Woodlands, we alighted at City Hall Station, then transferred to the Green line. Although Changi was also Green, those who were headed there had to alight at Tanah Merah (Green). Two stations away, it was already Changi. The trip was around an hour in total.

We planned to leave our luggage at the airport and avail of the shower facilities there. Unfortunately, the shower facilities were only available after checking in at the departure area, but we still have two places in mind to tour: Gardens by the Bay, pre-booked (SD28/PHP942: two conservatories already), and Chinatown, hoping to buy cheaper souvenirs. We left the luggage (9SD/PHP300), but we just made use of the toilet to clean ourselves up; unfortunately, no shower.

After getting ready but with no breakfast, we took a taxi (13SD/PHP434) to Gardens upon learning that the airport shuttle didn’t have a ride to that destination. It was a good thing though since we didn’t have to sweat it up finding the place via MRT.

Since we had booked our tickets online, we didn’t have to go through the long lines (it was Sunday). Inside the first conservatory, the Flower Dome, it was a refreshing change of atmosphere. Outside, it was really hot. Here, no wonder all the flowers and trees were very beautiful. They were pampered with an air-conditioned facility. (I’ll have a separate post on the flowers of Gardens).

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We no longer bought tickets to the top of the trees (OCBC SkyWay) because of the lack of time again and we thought it would just be the same feel. They say the Tower Trees were even more stunning at night. Our flight was at 6 PM that day. Once again, next time.

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Tulips!!!

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An arc of greens.

The second conservatory: the Cloud Forest.

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More rainforest-like trees, elevated/tall pathways, nature-oriented films. The main difference from the Flower Dome: the falls. I like this conservatory more because of the artificial waterfalls.

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After we had our refreshing time at Gardens, we were very hungry that I was already dreaming of hot soup while on the train, no kidding. After buying some items in their souvenir shop, we decided to have our breakfast/lunch, but all the restaurants inside the place were jam-packed. What worsened the hunger was the long walk to the MRT station.

On the positive side, we got to pass areas that were also interesting and that Singapore is known for.

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Another weird structure. Cool, nonetheless, and awesome background. I’ve no idea what this is and didn’t exert any more effort to know its name.

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Some meters ahead, this street Art Museum was to be found.

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Inside the Marina Bay Mall. We wanted to eat here already, but finding the station was more important at that point. Needless to say, going to Chinatown was not anymore a priority.

After a total of 30-40 minutes walk from Gardens by the Bay, including the stops at the spots I’ve mentioned, we finally found the MRT Station. From the Marina Bay Station (Yellow line), we took the train and alighted at Paya Lebar. We transferred to the Green line going to Tanah Merah, and then to Changi Airport station.

Our second train ticket top-up was worth 10SD/PHP334, and before leaving Singapore, we still had 8SD/PHP267 left in it. I thought of not returning the ticket but changed my mind eventually thinking that I still could use the amount for souvenir items.

At the airport, we planned exhausting all our remaining money for food because of our hunger. The nearest we saw (and familiar to us) was McDonald’s. Although we were craving for rice, we were satisfied enough with food worth SD30/PHP1, 002. Surprisingly, we had some more amount left. We happily spent it buying souvenir items for our friends and families back home. We joked we were so rich that we would be beggars when we go back to reality.

We left Singapore with a joyful heart thanking it for providing us a temporary relief from our usual ways. We would be glad to come back for a longer stay. Although the cost of goods and services are really high, the kind of life it offers compensates it.

If you’re a working-class citizen touring like me, you have to save up for at least P10, 000 (excluding airfare) to accommodate most of the spots and activities the country is known for.

From my plane’s seat, I had a nostalgic final glimpse of the city country which opened another window to the world that’s just there waiting to be explored more.

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Travel, you’re a temptress.

I didn’t know you then that much.

I was okay with waking up, heading to work, and going back home.

I was okay with routines. True, they weren’t very fun, but boredom wasn’t killing my sanity either.

I didn’t have to stress myself planning for anything, empty my pocket for something, and tire my feet for every distance I would have to take.

I was content with the little pleasures I got from television, songs, and hanging out with the  usual people and things around me.

I was generally content with the life I knew.

In fact, I goaled to only finish school, get one job and stay in it till retirement age, maybe marry (or not) and have a daughter, and buy a house for my family and stay there until the day I- or we- die. For me, that was the ultimate dream.

But not anymore.

Because now you’re messing with my straight-ahead plan. After I tried you once, you’ve left me with this addiction. You’ve showed me that there’s more to sitting all day in front of a glaring monitor and aiming to own the recent gadgets being sold. Because you’ve awed me with the beauty of the different places you’ve taken me to and the identities they’re proud of. You’ve thrilled me with the means you took me to those destinations. And you’re teasing “More!”

You’re pushing me to leave my comfortable ways, the people I have to take care of, and the convenience of stable existence. You’re pushing me to go farther and explore further. You implant in me this desire, this rush for the risky uncertain. You’re making my brain and heart debate whether I should heed your tempting call, along with the contrasting anxiety and excitement you bring.

I know I couldn’t fully trust you.  I know you could lead me to failures and worries and more fears. I know you have no promises of gold or diamonds. I know you only want me to test my courage, to furnish my faith, and to let go of what I am used to.

Honestly, I really don’t know what you’re up to.

But isn’t that what life is all about? Isn’t our being born to non-knowledge of what really life is the true mark of the fact that life should not be defined but should just be lived?

I don’t mean being reckless. Life should be a balance of experience and responsibility. Good values should never change despite a daring attitude toward life. And that is what I would want to engage myself into– to experience what living has to offer while being responsible and still value-full in doing so.

I don’t think I could still resist you for long. I am scared. But beyond that, I am hopeful. For life, for love, for finding my purpose, for my faith, and for living for the present.

I don’t intend to do you just for the heck of doing you. More than capturing our moments with a lens and having the “hey-i-was-here” shout-outs, I would want to learn more from you, the kind of lessons that would challenge the heart, my soul. I am readying myself now for you. Soon, I will totally embrace you. Because I would no longer suppress my capacity to fully live the life I’m blessed of.

Yes, fly me to the realms of your temptation.

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Life On A Day: A Twist On the Weekly Photo Challenge

I want to participate in this week’s “A Day In My Life” challenge; however, since a typical day for me is something that does not interest me so, i don’t have the energy yet to share about it. I hope though I could still share something about it that what is worth of words. I still have a week.

For now, I have a post about a break from my typical days, which gave a sort of life to my everyday living because this day gave me some joy being away from work, city life, and stress. I don’t hate my usual days; even stress drives me more, but that feeling of BEING away and not seeing the usual things gave me a sense of self-love. I so needed this break, too, after undergoing a minor surgery and surviving it, thank you Lord (I might also write about that ordeal as a follow-up to my ‘medical paranoia’ post).

So where did I spend that much-needed break?

Rizal province. A little more than two hours away from Manila, specifically from Shaw Starmall where my brother, our cousin, and I kick started our mini-day-tour with a commuter van costing us 70 pesos each to our first destination, Daranak Falls in Tanay. I just want to put the photos now before this post is again taken over by my usual wordiness.

the one where we were here looked the same as that one before us.

the one where we were here looked the same as that one before us.

we had some more meters to walk after the trike driver told us he couldn't anymore go further. we thought he was just lazy since there were still vehicles passing us. dusty, sweaty, me panting. but i welcomed the walking since it's still exercise.

we had some more meters to walk after the trike driver, whom we paid 150 pesos, dropped us off saying he couldn’t anymore go farther. we thought he was just lazy since there were still vehicles passing our way. dusty (especially the uncemented part), sweaty, me panting. but i welcomed the walking since it’s still exercise.

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… and this beauty erased that resentment we had toward the driver.

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a staircase to the Grotto of Mama Mary. we didn’t attempt to go there and climb it since i know it would cause me a day or two of being bed-ridden. my legs are old for climbing. they’re even hurting as of the moment of writing because of all the walking we had on this day.

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finally, we reached the main entrance and proceeded to paying 20 pesos per head. the picnic huts and tables were already full and rented, so we just looked for a place where we ate and rested for a while before heading to the falls. and discovering other areas.

I thought we were still early coming in at around 8 AM, but the place was already crowded. It was a holiday, so we expected this. I myself was making the most out of the holiday that was why I still decided to go. The noise was a bit frustrating because I didn’t feel that much the serenity I was craving for, but the feeling this natural beauty gave me overshadowed that minor setback.

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I wasn’t able to go to main part of the falls though since I was afraid to make my way to it. I can’t swim. I wouldn’t trust my life on the “salbabida” I rented. Just the part of passing and walking through the slippery rocks almost made me give up to even touch the falls’ water. I overheard the policeman telling a guy asking that the water on the main part is 30 feet, or 13 feet maybe… either one of them, it is still way more than twice my height.  I just contented myself feeling the moment of being close to that natural wonder, shooting anything that caught my eyes, and watching some people with their “tricks.”

satisfied on the side where my feet can still feel something underneath them. it's strange because 5 more steps away from the side, then it's already 5 feet deep.

satisfied on the side where my feet can still feel something underneath them. it’s strange because 5 more steps away from the side, then it’s already 5 feet deep.

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I left the place with a satisfied feeling. I might visit Daranak again (or its sister falls, Batlag) on a less crowded day. So far, this is the most affordable and nearest tour I had.

I didn’t forget that this Friday was also the Lord’s Day. When I was a child, my folks told the children to just stay at home and sit on this day because Jesus died for our sins. I saw that that tradition was totally different now based on the people in Daranak maximizing the day taking their vacation and the busy streets and roads we passed through going home. I don’t know how to feel about that since I myself was not anymore just sitting on this day, but I would never fail to thank God for His love and sacrifices on any days. Before we left the province, we went to Antipolo Church and I thanked God for giving me this day to be closer to Him through His gift of nature, to feel His presence in His home, and to appreciate His gift of life more.

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preparing for the procession.

preparing for the procession.

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I hope everyone has a fruitful Holy Week. God Bless.