Friday, February 12, 2016

Travelogue: Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines 2015 - Villa Escudero, Tagaytay & Taal Church

After spending the whole day settling down and resting after arriving from Catanduanes, we were all ready to hit the roads again! But little did we know that the moment we drove off from home, we will be on the roads for the rest of the day...


[Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015]
15 October 2015 - Villa Escudero, Tagaytay & Taal Church
It has been a while since the last time I visited this part of the Philippines. So the friends had very carefully planned out an entire day's worth of activities so that we spent our time to the fullest!

We woke up and set off bright early on our mini road trip! But we encountered pretty terrible traffic conditions and our travelling time was extended unexpectedly. I think we were in the car for a good three or four hours, so we could only satisfy the hunger with a quick breakfast from the drive-thru before we arrived at our first destination!


Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
Website: http://www.villaescudero.com/

In the 1880s, the estate was a sugarcane plantation founded by the Don Placido Escudero and his wife. It was a simple plantation until their son converted the sugarcane plantation to a coconut plantation and introduced the country's first working hydroelectric plant to supply his desiccated coconut factory in the early 1900s.

Eventually, the plantation developed into tourist destination offering rich cultural heritage in the estate and it was opened to the public in 1981.


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
Map of Villa Escudero

Since they do not provide any maps or leaflets that I can grab, I had to quickly snap a photo of the estate's map at the main lobby while the friend grabbed the Day Tour tickets (P1,250 per adult on Mondays to Thursdays) for us which will allow us access to the museum, outdoor recreational facilities and also lunch at the Waterfalls Restaurant!


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
Villa Escudero Museum

The museum is located just beside the main lobby so we walked over to check it out before lunch.

It was founded by Arsenio and Rosario Escudero and it houses one of the largest collections and unmatched in its eclectic diversity. In the museum, a replica of a long-gone church in Intramuros, you can find a wide collection of silver altars, ivory Santos, embroidered vestments and carved images and even oriental ceramics, costumes, household furniture, weaponry and many more.

The extensive collection was quite eye-opening and we spent quite a long while looking through the collection! And when we were done, we were famished! We hopped onto a buffalo cart to take us to the Waterfalls Restaurant for lunch!  


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
Crossing paths with another Buffalo Cart on the road!


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines 15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
The two buffalos that brought us to and fro the Waterfalls Restaurant - Maganda & Ligaya!


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines

15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines

15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines

Waterfalls Restaurant

I have had meals at the oddest of places but this is truly my first time eating with a waterfall as a backdrop and water running below the dining table where you can soak your feet in the crystal clear spring water! Anyway, you can get a small selection of local dishes (free flow!) and even fresh coconut juice at the Waterfalls Restaurant! Such a fancy experience actually!


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines

Flow river, flow!~


15 October 2015: Villa Escudero | Quezon, Philippines
Post lunch and a group photo before we say goodbye to Villa Escudero! :)


Coffee break @ Starbucks | Tagaytay, Cavite, Philippines

15 October 2015: Starbucks @ Twin Lakes Megaworld | Tagaytay, Philippines

I attended another friend's wedding at Tagaytay two years ago but I haven't had the chance to look around even though it was my first visit to Tagaytay. So the friend planned to drive around to Tagaytay after lunch for our next stop of the day!

Although there are many cafes and restaurants at Tagaytay, we chose to stop by Starbucks at Twin Lakes Megaworld, dubbed as the most beautiful Starbucks outlet in the Philippines, for a coffee break before we went on with our road trip! Such a pity it was drizzling a little and rather gloomy outside!


Anyway, for the last stop of our mini road trip, we were supposed to visit the friend's family at Batangas and we took a quick look around town before heading over for dinner. But the friend had insisted that we visit the Taal Church even though it was already getting dark and when we got there, I understood why she had insisted!

Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Taal Church) | Taal, Batangas, Philippines

15 October 2015: Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Taal Church) | Taal, Batangas, Philippines

15 October 2015: Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Taal Church) | Taal, Batangas, Philippines

Just like every other church I had visited in the Philippines, Taal Church has a long history dating all the way back to the 1575! It was initially located on the banks of Taal Lake before it was relocated to its current location. And Taal Church is the largest church I have ever came across!

The church was so tall that it looks so grand and majestic with its beautifully aged stone facade even though it was really quite dark when we got there. It was a true pity that I couldn't get a better picture! Then again, that will make it a valid reason to look forward to the next time I get to see Taal Church, of course in a better light! Haha!

Anyway, with that... We ended our 14 hours road trip complete with four stops, countless of coffee breaks along the highway, lots of candies and gums and singing along to the radio! Hehe! Thank you to the friend who planned and drove us around! Road trip success!




More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Travelogue: Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines 2015 - Antipolo

I, for some reason, don't have an issue getting out of bed early every time I am on a holiday. But I figured it might be because the sun rises much earlier in other parts of the world and my love for sun shine anonymously sets an alarm at those ungodly timing on my body clock.

Well anyway, I was going to say I am already getting used to waking up naturally at around 5:00am in the morning but it was already our last morning at Catanduanes...


[Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015]
14 October 2015 - Antipolo
After chomping down breakfast the kind folks prepared for us, we grabbed our baggages, bid goodbye and headed off to Virac Airport to catch our flight back to Manila!

14 October 2015: Virac Airport | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
At Virac Airport, just before getting on the plane for the flight back to Manila!
(And that hideous looking scar on my right shin... Yikes!)

Virac Airport, located in Virac (of course!), is the only public airport serving the island of Catanduanes. And in other words, if you are planning to visit Catanduanes, your one and only flight option is to fly to Virac Airport. Haha! 


14 October 2015: Flight Catanduanes to Manila

On board and flying from Virac to Manila...

After the hour-long flight from Virac to Manila, we grabbed some brunch along the way back to the friend's home and managed to survive the heavy traffic in Manila jolly well... But we crashed for the rest of the morning and afternoon until we got awoken by our own grumbling tummies. Haha!

But before we head off for dinner, we took a slight detour and stopped by a church in Antipolo City...


National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

14 October 2015: Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage | Antipolo, Philippines

Just like every other church I had poked my nose into in the Philippines, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, or also known as Antipolo Cathedral, has a long story of its own.

After it was first completed in 1632, the church suffered a few rounds of severe damages and restorations over the years due to revolts, earthquakes and even the Second World War. A campaign was organized to build a new church after the Second World War and the finally, the shrine and what we see today was designed and built in 1954.


14 October 2015: Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage | Antipolo, Philippines

I believed I have poked my nose into too many churches even though I am neither a Catholic nor a Christian and this is the first time I actually stepped into a church or cathedral with a circular hall!

And that was probably my nth time stumbling into a wedding function at the church! Beautiful... :)


14 October 2015: Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage | Antipolo, Philippines

Anyway, it is without any doubt that the streets of the town around a major place of worship will eventually become a popular meeting place and the area will gradually evolve into a food and shopping haven for the locals. But I wasn't ready to witness the high traffic volume and even a crowd on a weekday evening! I was actually starting to wonder if there was a festival going on aside from the wedding function! So happening!


And when we were done with our little detour at Antipolo Cathedral, we set off in search of food, glorious food! Hehe...


Max's Restaurant | SM City Masinag

14 October 2015: Dinner @ Max's Restaurant | SM City Masinag, Antipolo, Philippines
Clockwise from top left: Crispy Pata, Kang Kong & Tofu on Hot Plate, 
Sinigang and Max's Restaurant's specialty Fried Chicken

Not like we haven't had enough of local food back at Catanduanes with the friend and her family but it's more Filipino cuisine at the trusty Max's Restaurant for dinner before we did some grocery shopping to stock up on some food and essentials at the friend's home!

And it must be a miracle because I believe these are my first photos of food for this entire trip! Hehe! Anyway, when we were done with dinner and grocery shopping, we stopped by Cloud 9 for a drink before we called it a day.


Cloud 9 (Hotel, Resort, Sports and Leisure Club)

14 October 2015: Cloud 9 | Antipolo, Philippines

14 October 2015: Cloud 9 | Antipolo, Philippines

From what I understood, Cloud 9 is a hotel and resort, an art museum and gallery and a recreation hub all at the same time! That was already pretty amazing to me already until I figured that they actually have a watch tower that can offer you a better vantage point with an even better view of Manila as compared to my previous experience at Padi's Point which is also located along the Sumulong Highway!

There are two routes to get to the top of the watch tower. It's either you climb eight flights of steps up four storeys or, to my greatest joy, you can take the suspension bridge that links the resort's main lobby straight to the top deck of the watch tower! Pretty scary since it was rather windy the night when we were there but it was too dark to figure out anything down under so we did it anyway! Hehe!

And too bad I wasn't equipped with any tripods or anything but still, good night Metro Manila! :)




More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Travelogue: Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines 2015 - Bato Church & Batalay Shrine

Our last day out at Catanduanes crept up quietly upon us and with that wee bit of disappointment that we are going to have to leave the sleepy town of Bato the following morning. We ended up taking a back seat, skipped the thought of visiting any other beaches and stayed home all day.

Or you can say, we were sulking while trying to look like we were chilling and I was helping out in the kitchen when the friend suggested out of the blue that I should take another look/ one last look around town for it is uncertain when will be the next time I am going to revisit Catanduanes.

I was lazy enough for a big part of the day already and it really won't do harm to move around a little...


[Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015]
13 October 2015 - Bato Church & Batalay Shrine
One thing you will definitely not miss when you are in Bato is Bato River, the river that runs through the quiet town! I know it is definitely way wider (and possibly deeper) than Singapore River, but it reminds me of the river we have here in Singapore and how both rivers brought life to the town anyways.

And I also heard and read about how Bato Church has been sitting on the banks of Bato River for centuries and I always wanted a closer look. So my little tour commenced at Bato River...


Bato River

13 October 2015: Bato River | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

Bato River used to be a deep river that separates Bato into two. There used to be an abundance of marine life but due to floods and soil erosions, the river is gradually drying up. And (almost) everyone I met has a story relating to this river!

Somehow kids from Bato grew up swimming in this river with their childhood friends with much disapproval from their parents but they still do it anyway! Aiya... Bad kids!

And those stumps you see in the foreground of the photos are the remnants of the columns of the old bridge that links the town together. It was very badly damaged by a flood and eventually replaced by the current one I was standing on.


Anyway, it is either you jump off the bridge for a swim in the river or you simply use it to cross over to the other side of town but no one really stops there just to enjoy the view. So as quickly as we stopped, we moved on to our next stop before someone mistaken us for some crazy fellas. Haha!


Bato Church

13 October 2015: Bato Church | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

When the Spanish first arrived at the Philippines, they brought along with them their religious beliefs and introduced it to the native people. And one of the many churches they built all over the islands of the Philippines is Bato Church or also known as St. John the Baptist Church.

Constructions of Bato Church began as early as in the 1830s and was only completed 50 years later. Today, the church with a mossy coral stone facade and overlooking the scenic Bato River, stood the test of time and remained strong and unaffected by countless of extreme weather conditions that hit the peaceful town of Bato.


13 October 2015: Bato Church | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

There was a small crowd that gathered at the nicely shaded courtyard of Bato Church but it was absolutely empty inside the church itself except for its caretaker trying to clean up the area.

Even though it was the exact same place the friend and family had the birthday mass for Mamagulang, there was a totally different ambiance since the place is empty this time around. And it was so peaceful and quiet that somehow, I started to tip-toe my way around the church for no darn reason. Haha!

It was nice to see the church up close again in daylight. And when I was done getting mesmerized by every inch of moss that grew over the stone facade, we threw ourselves a little off course and headed out to Batalay, approximately a short 10 minutes drive from Bato River.


Batalay Shrine

13 October 2015: Batalay Shrine | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

We passed Batalay Shrine on our way to Sakahon Beach the other day and the friend pointed it out to me while briefly sharing with me about the history of the church (You can read about it here.). And it was really nice to visit the church to take a closer look but it was a pity that the church is already closed by the time we got there.

Well, some say that the structure in front of the shrine is an unfinished construction while others said that it is the remnants of the original church that was damaged by a typhoon many years ago. I think I will have to ask Mamagulang for an accurate account of the history of Batalay Shrine! Haha!

And we surely heard the sound of running waters coming from underneath the church where the natural spring, with water that the church claims to have healing properties, is located. But since there seem to be a few devotees there, I decided not to disrupt them and moved on to check out where gravel path and stairs in front of the church will lead me to!


13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines


And I stumbled upon what seemed like a back alley with their own little promenade along a short river or what seems more like a lake created by natural erosion and deposition over time! How serene and beautiful! It is like a sanctuary!


13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Rice paddy fields in Bato

And that summed up the short tour I took around Bato on my last evening there! It somewhat dawned on me that I really enjoyed the vast open spaces and clear view of the sky in any direction I was to look. Everything slowed down so drastically for me while I was out in Catanduanes and it felt like I am already getting used to the place and the slow pace.

But the biggest torture and reality of life is that there is an end to everything and my short visit to Catanduanes ended and we flew back to Manila where we spent a couple more days there before our flight home to Singapore. 

p.s. Can't wait to revisit Catanduanes!




More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Travelogue: Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines 2015 - Puraran Beach & PAGASA Weather Station

I cannot think of anything more glorious than losing connection on my phone every now and then when I was in Catanduanes last October.

Well, I am actually quite happy that it makes it really pointless to try and poke at the phones (aside from using it as my handy camera) so there's nothing else to do but to keep eating, swimming and enjoying the company of the people I was with!

Anyway, so here's another day spent at another beach on the east coast of Catanduanes!


[Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015]
12 October 2015
Puraran Beach & PAGASA Weather Station

I think there was a surfing event at Puraran Beach in Catanduanes the very same weekend we were there. So we were actually joined by a handful of very beautifully sun-kissed surfers on our flight from Manila to Virac!

Makes me a little excited about how healthily tanned I will look after spending a couple of days there, minus the part where I will have to nurse the sunburn. Oops I digressed. Haha! Ok, back to the main point!



Puraran Beach is located along the east coast of Catanduanes. It is unblocked and opens right out to the Pacific Ocean. And for that, Puraran Beach is well known for the strong and majestic waves and alternatively known as Puraran Surf Beach or Puraran Surf Camp to the avid surfers.

Aside from the beach and waves for surfers, Puraran Beach and the resort there is very much fully equipped and family oriented but wide and spacious. And of course, it was really calm and quiet since we visited the place after the weekends and (almost) successfully had the entire beach to ourselves aside from the local fishermen or a small handful of guests at the resort! Hehe!


12 Oct 2015: Baras | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

We had to drive out about 45 minutes down a hilly highway from where we were since Puraran Beach is so much further from we were as compared to the first two beaches we visited in Catanduanes.

And it was really nice to be seated at the rear of the jeepney where I sleepily watched the homes and other buildings in the bustling town fade away as we drive on towards Puraran Beach.


12 Oct 2015: Puraran Surf Beach Resort | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

12 Oct 2015: Puraran Surf Beach Resort | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Puraran Beach

When we arrived at Puraran Beach, the sun was already high up in the sky and bright but not scorching thanks to the bits of fluffy clouds here and there (A storm happened in other parts of the island but we were completely safe!). The tide was low and it revealed a rocky edge between the sea and the beach. And most importantly, the waters was calm, warm and very welcoming!

Aside from getting out to refuel the body with food and drinks and trying to hide a little from the sun sometime past 12:00 noon, we basically stayed in the waters most of the time. And I am proud that I only took the above two photos over the entire day spent there.

A little shameless but I was always either holding on to food, glorious food, or dripping wet from the swim that deterred me from trying to hold my camera or phone to snap more photos! Hehe!



12 Oct 2015: Pagasa Weather Station | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines12 Oct 2015: Pagasa Weather Station | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
PAGASA Weather Station

When we were done at Puraran Beach for the day, we made a stopover at PAGASA Weather Station on our way back. Maybe it was a weekday evening after all but there wasn't another soul there aside from the guards and us. Or it might be because it is a little late and past the opening hours already since the gates were closed when we got there. 

Thankfully the guards very kindly allowed us access anyway! :)


12 Oct 2015: Pagasa Weather Station | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
View of the coastline from the weather station...

12 Oct 2015: Pagasa Weather Station | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Sunshine after rain

The weather station is a simple and quiet development that is still currently functioning. And if I did not hear and remember wrongly, this radar station on the southeast corner of Catanduanes was the station that picked up the forecasts of many powerful and damaging typhoons like Yolanda.

There seem to be a couple of exhibits here and there on the history and other information of the climate and weather of Philippines but we didn't hang around and explore the building. We had a quick look around and took a bunch of photos on the roof deck of the station and left since we look like we were bothering the guards past the station's visiting hours.

The shot with the sunshine peering through the thick clouds over the mountains after the rain is probably one of my favorite shots of the entire trip there! And with that, it sums up our day out at Puraran Beach and the stopover at the weather station!




More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Travelogue: Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines 2015 - Sakahon Beach & Lighthouse

It was such a pity that all the fun and hype of the birthday fiesta simmered down when a big part of the family had to pack up and leave so that they are able to get back in time for work again in the new week.

And with about less than half the people left, the remaining ones continued to explore the island of Catanduanes. Enough of jumping off the diving board into the waters, we decided to scale some heights this time around!


[Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015]
11 October 2015 - Sakahon Beach & Lighthouse

11 Oct 2015: Bato | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Cruising through the sleepy town of Bato and rice paddy fields en route to Sakahon Beach...

After we sent off the people leaving that morning, we worked on preparing ourselves for a day out at an untouched beach. And as untouched as it is, we had to make sure we are well-prepared with enough food and water so that we will be able to enjoy the place to the fullest!

Sakahon Beach, here we come!


Sakahon Beach & Light House is located on the southern end of Catanduanes, on the other end of Cabugao Bay from Twin Rocks Beach Resort. And it took us approximately 30 minutes to drive from Bato through the hilly countryside of the island before we arrived at the beach.


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Sakahon Beach!

Since the beach is located on the other side of the hills from town, the short stretch of beach was really quite secluded and there was no one else aside from us and the local fishermen shuttling in and out of the waters with fresh catch.

Unfortunately, it was not the right season to visit the beach. The monsoon washed up seaweed onto the fine and soft sandy beach. But I am pretty sure the beach will be very beautiful in another season!


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

We spent most of the time swimming and eating away, pretty much just beach bumming until the friend came up with a brilliant idea. We spoke with the local fishermen and they agreed to take us out and around the small islands in front of Sakahon Beach.

To be honest, we attempted to head out to sea twice. The first attempt was before our hike up to the lighthouse and it failed because for some reason, the engine of the boat we got into refused to start. And on the second try, we managed to leave the beach but it was a little scary sitting in a small fishing boat in the choppy waters. Well, whatever happened, it was really awesome that we managed to see another view of Sakahon Beach and caught a glimpse of its surrounding!

And as mentioned, we went on the hike to see the lighthouse in between the two attempts...


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

While we were preparing for the day out at Sakahon Beach, the ones who weren't going to join us told us that the hike is going to be so worthwhile and enjoyable but they reminded us to remember to bring along a pair of comfortable shoes for the hike, take care and stay safe. 

I took all the contradicting advice even though I was absolutely puzzled. But I immediately figured out what they were trying to say after we stepped right onto the trekking trail when I decided to go ahead without changing into my shoes.

Check out the condition of the trail in the photos above! It was rocky and slippery, and mostly at an inclined angle of approximately 30ยบ or more. I totally regretted not making the effort to dry up my feet and put on my shoes even though we were all wet from the swim!


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

Sakahon Lighthouse!

I guess it will not be so mentally taxing to hike up if I am in proper footwear and not in slippers. And you have no idea how relieved I was when I finally spotted the simple white structure of the lighthouse after we hiked for about 45 minutes or so!

With shaking knees from the 45 minutes hike and fear of heights standing on that skinny structure, I forced myself to continue going all the way to the top of the lighthouse anyway. I didn't regret a single bit! Check out the view from up above!


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Oh hello, Pacific Ocean!

The view of the Pacific Ocean and the green pastures from the lighthouse was simply too awesome. If not for the shaking legs, I would stay at the top and enjoy the sea wind that brushed not so gently on the face! Haha! Definitely the best reward after the tiring hike! Don't you think so too? :)


Anyway, it was a little too late when I finally figured what the rest back home were trying to warn us about. We were way into the trail and there was no turning back. And at the end of the day, I was soaked from head to toes in my own sweat, I added a new scar to the collection on my right shin and I was dying for some iced cold beer and ice cream.

But... this is truly a different experience from my usual beach bumming every time I visited the Philippines. I enjoyed every bit of the day nonetheless! I will love to revisit and do the hike again, with proper footwear of course! Haha!


11 Oct 2015: Sakahon Beach & Light House | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
A beautiful sunset to end off our day...

On our way back from the beach, we caught a glimpse of the sunset and we made the driver stopped the jeepney so that we can snap some photos... Hehe! What a beautiful way to end off our day out at an untouched beach on Catanduanes!




More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

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