Monday, March 30, 2009

Road trip to Pagbilao, Quezon

It all started with the idea of bringing our bikes and go to Quezon province via Antipolo. Jojo mentioned that he had always wanted to do this but he didn't have a chance yet and don't know where that road is. As for me, I vaguely remember that my dad mentioned that a road we were passing by on the way to Morong, Rizal to visit a relative earlier this year was supposed to lead you to Quezon and ultimately to Bicol region.

After doing minimal research on where the road is and armed with a not-so-detailed southwest Luzon map, we left Metro Manila at 5:00AM last Saturday. We didn't bring our bikes because weather forecast says it's going to rain the coming days.

I took this picture of the sunrise somewhere in Rizal (probably Baras on the way down to Tanay).

Because we left early that day, we haven't had our breakfast yet. We passed by quite a few number of Franks n' Burgers and stopped on one to eat.

We passed by Pagsanjan, Laguna and attempted to go to Pagsanjan Falls. However, the boat service to the falls we saw didn't provide safe parking for us. We tried to look for others, but didn't bother to ask around so we ended up abandoning the idea and put it off for another trip. As we got closer to Lucban, Quezon, we saw a number of signs leading to Kamay ni Hesus. I remember seeing days ago some photos from Edu Lorenzo taken from here and it seems to be a famous place around here so we decided to stop by the shrine.

praying, and hopefully blessed

Pagbilao, Quezon - touched down here before lunch time. After driving past the city proper in search for signages leading to beautiful spots or probably a resort, we turned back and decided to ask directions from someone in the city proper. "Kwebang Lampas" seemed to be a popular unspoilt paradise based on some reviews online and that is what we were looking for at first.

Across the Municipal Hall where we asked for directions from policemen is St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, an old church completed in 1877 but was mostly destroyed during World War II. Only the bell tower survived and the only original structure left when it was restored in 1954.

The unique experience of eating by the bay is an attraction here in Silangang Nayon, a hotel and restaurant park where we had lunch.

Visitors prefer to eat their lunch over their floating cottages. To go there, you have to climb down to the shore and walk on the bamboo bridge.

The cooking happens inland. Waiters will take your order and will submit it to the kitchen for preparation and cooking. When you're food is ready, it will board an "airplane" and will "fly" to cross the water.

It was a nice experience to dine at Silangang Nayon because of the cool breeze. They serve mostly seafood and we had a good filling lunch of native tinolang manok and mixed seafood (squid, fish, shrimps, vegetables) served in a fried potato basket.

On the way, we decided that we'll just stay somewhere near overnight rather than turn back the same day so we may have more time do more things. We initially thought we would stay in Silangang Nayon but we decided to check the area for other options. We saw this resort nearby, Pueblo por la Playa and decided to check it out. It is a Mexican-inspired residential and leisure resort. However, it is only open for members. We were about to turn back but we were offered by the resort manager to have a stay for one night only, which they rarely do.

The resort is still under development. They have these villas, splitted as duplex, for staying. They have 6 villas so effectively they only have 12 units for members, making it very cozy and at-home because there are not much crowd in the resort.

For you to go around the resort, you will need to ride one of their shuttles. Cars are parked in an area just beside the gate and these shuttles will fetch you to bring you to the administration office or to the villas.

There were 2 infinity pools in the resort - for adults and for kids, that are huge. It was so large that I think it will never get too crowded even during peak days.

The duplex units in the villas are very spacious. It has a separate living room and bed room which is good for up to 4 persons. The insides are very bright and colorful!


Each unit also feaures a veranda with a table and a hammock. This is a very nice area to just chill out and relax overlooking the beach.

the hammock, perfect for short rests and afternoon naps

The beachfront area is very beautiful - white sand and calm waters, perfect for different beach activities.

two-thumbs up!


the beach

That afternoon, we had a bit of island hopping when we went to Grande Island and the sand bar by boat.

On the way to puting buhangin and kwebang lampas, we passed by Pagbilao Power Plant which looked like a lighthouse from miles away.

Kwebang Lampas is a unique cave by the sea. It is just a small cave that has an opening near the shoreline and another one leading to the open water.

A beautiful scene greeted us at puting buhangin. Pure white sand beach, clear water and not a lot of people in the area. In fact they left the beach 5 minutes after we came.

Apart from cottages and the house of the owner/caretaker, there are no other establishments in the area. If you plan to stay longer, you should bring your own food and stuffs. There are no overnight facilities but you may negotiate with the caretaker if they will allow camping and bringing of tents here.

our boat in puting buhangin

After puting buhangin, we went to see the sandbar which they said is famous around here. It is a sandbar in the middle of the water and only appears during low-tide. The water was already rising so we didn't get to see the sandbar emerged from water. This is our boat stucked in shallow waters.

Apart from the white sand and a few creatures like starfishes, there are no other things to see here. I was told that previously there were even corals around the area but ever since there were quarrying of white sand going around here during the past years, the sand bar became lower and the biological ecosystem was gone.

For dinner, we initially went to Lucena to look for a local place to eat, after having problems parking in SM Lucena City, we instead went to Palay-Isdaan, a restaurant that we passed by a number of times and it's name resonated on us. We were not expecting that part of the attraction of the restaurant are different animals.

one of the cottages in Palay-Isdaan

dinner food! grilled porkchop, camaron and grilled tilapia!

Our dinner finished early and by 8PM, there are pretty much nothing else for us to do. We went back to the resort to rest and probably watch some DVDs in the room. Outside our room and by the beach, there was an event going on (Flair Tenders, bartending competition) but I didn't go to witness it. Instead, I just walked around and took pictures of the resort at night.

This is how the adult infinity pool looks like at night. Pretty neat huh?!

We woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise and take pictures. The beach front was a perfect place to catch this spectacular moment in the morning.

kiddie infinity pool early in the morning

We also witnessed how they "prepare" the beach in the morning. Aside from cleaning the shoreline right next to the water, they seem to "plow" the sand and level it by using this machine I don't know what is for and what is called. I just name the person operating it as "the sandman".

cottages, nice place to stay and relax while watching the beautiful sunrise

footprints in the sand

footprints being erased by the sandman!

We left the resort by 8:30AM that morning and started to drive back, this time taking a different route. We caught pictures of the fields and greeneries on the way.

There is this weird signboard that we have passed by that states "Traffic signalized intersection 200m ahead". Traffic lights must be rare around here. :)

We passed by San Pablo City and attempted to see one of the seven lakes. We tried the nearest one that is on the way (Sampalok Lake) but didn't see any road sign leading to it. We also tried to make our way from here going to Bay and Los Baños but we didn't see the road leading to it so we ended up passing by the traditional route via Alaminos City instead.

tree with orange-colored flowers, somewhere in Batangas

Mountain view, not sure which one is this though, taken from somewhere in Batangas and near the tree with orange flowers above

Mount Makiling, a dormant volcano located in Laguna. We could have passed by here if we made it to Los Baños, Laguna. This picture was taken from Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

flowers at south luzon expressway

The whole road trip experience was great. I attribute this to having less plans which I equate to less expectation and leads to less disappointment if things wouldn't turn out good (like supposedly Pagsanjan Falls). I thought we are still lucky that we came across these different things, even if all is not really part of the plan.

More pictures are available in multiply. Just add me as a friend to view them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jobless in Guam

Taking advantage over a long weekend, my mom and I we left for Guam one late Friday night, arrived early the next morning, and left Guam early Tuesday morning and arrived just in time for her to go to work that day. Monday was a holiday because it was Ninoy Aquino Day, in commemoration of his assasination and heroism. During this time, I considered myself "jobless" or "in between jobs" because I had almost the whole month off (August 2008) due to a job role transition.

While waiting for our flight that night (Philippine Airlines), which is scheduled to leave at 10:00PM (GMT +8) and to arrive Saturday in Guam at 4:00 AM (GMT +10), there was a blackout in the centennial airport terminal. It was my first time to experience such a huge blackout in a public place like this. It only lasted for about 15 minutes or so so it wasn't that bad.

Minutes before boarding time, the names of my mom and I were announced over the PA system. I wondered what that was about but it was just for a requirement to log our contact and address in the US. A few more minutes after and we were called again, this time to upgrade our boarding passes to Business Class. Cool right?

It was a 4-hour red-eye flight and as much as I wanted to sleep, I had a hard time resisting the temptation of the in-flight entertainment! Lots of on-demand movies, tv shows, music and even games!

Dinner was served - a 3-course meal, and so far the best I had in business class in any airline I have flown with. For the appetizer, they served tapas and fresh vegetable lumpia.

Obviously the entree followed. I had an angus beef steak cooked to my preference which is medium-rare! Served with potatoes and vegetables on the side it was delicious and cooked just right to my liking!

As you can see here, I finished almost everything! I was already full at that time come desert time, I had to refuse when they offered sweets. When I was handed a Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream though, I didn't hesitate and got it. Yummy!

We touched down Guam right on time, just a little before 4:00 AM. Because it was a red-eye flight, we sure were tired and was looking forward to see a bed soon and sleep. Hurriedly, we went to get our baggage, hailed a cab, and off we went to our hotel.

This is the lobby of our hotel. Very welcoming but different from the ones I'm used to seeing when I travel. Ambience is very warm and themed in a holiday getaway manner.

It was still early in the morning when we checked-in and we had to wait for our room to get fixed because they had full occupancy the previous night and housekeeping personnel has schedule on when to clean up. We settled in the comfortable sofas at the lobby first and didn't realize we already had fall into substantial nap time. When we woke up, the sun is already rising and since it seems housekeeping isn't in yet, we just walked around the premises to see the a glimpse of Guam at sunrise. This photo was taken from the pool area.

the hotel beachfront, facing Tumon Bay

A few hours later when the sun was already out bright, we left the hotel to have breakfast. It was raining on and off that day and the grounds around the hotel was still wet. The clouds were still gloomy and the sky had an overcast. We were staying in Guam Marriott Resort & Spa, a lovely hotel located in the quiet and side of the city but is within minutes to establishments and necessities.

After breakfast, we boarded one of the bus lines, bought a few days pass and off we went to Guam Premier Outlets. It is similar to the Premium Outlets at mainland US but is smaller.

Right after window shopping (I didn't buy anything, though my mom bought some), we went back to our hotel to settle things and take a rest that afternoon. Our room had a nice view of the bay with a balcony where we can stay and watch the beauty of the surrounding.

Before the sun came down, we went out, rode again one of the buses, and heard an anticipated mass in a nearby Catholic church.

I forgot the name of this church but this is just a small parish, beside Acanta Mall.

After hearing the mass, we dropped by and see things around Acanta Mall.

We also went to the heart of Tumon to see the different establishments and shops, most of which are high end! Of course I cannot avord the LV's, Marc Jacobs, YSL, etc. so I just window-shopped with my mom.

I love this photo of The Westin Resort with dark blue background at night.

After dinner around the vibrant heart of Tumon, we went back to our hotel and had a good night rest, to get ready for the next day.

View from our room at night, overlooking buildings around Tumon Bay shoreline.

We woke up a bit late the next day after taking the long deserved rest. Sky was still overcasted but the rain had stopped. This is the view from our room in the morning.

We had breakfast at Marriott Cafe, a very vibrant and colorful restaurant! The food was okay, the usual Marriott spread in full-service hotels, but it sure filled us up to be ready for the activites for the rest of the day.

We rented a car for the day to go around the island and explore. Here are some places we went to throughout the day:

The first place we stopped by was in Two Lovers Point, a good spot to see the area around Tumon Bay and Philippine Sea. There is a legend as to why the namesake, telling that a couple jumped in the cliff here to be together in eternity.

We also passed by Pope John Paul II's statue in Hagåtña. It was built at the same spot where he held a mass during his visit in 1981.

Around the island, we saw a few of these tunnels, which were used as a hideout during World War II.

cannons, used during World War II

an ancient war tank and a dinosaur?

governor's complex

War in the Pacific National Historical Park near Asan Beach

Fort Nuestra de la Soledad. I saw this Carabao on the way in and honestly, it is my first time to see one with a full horn even though we have lots of this in our country and originally these faunas are from the Philippines!

San Dionisio Church, view from Fort Nuesta de la Soledad

view from the the fort

cannon at the fort, facing the sea and defending the island

We had a beautiful scenic drive around the island! Aside from the luscious greens and beautiful waterways, we've seen things like the stone that others think is shaped like a bear.

We also stopped by this beautiful area where a few people are swimming. From a certain angle, it looks like an infinity pool.

We had lunch that day at Jeff's Pirates Cove to sample Guam barbecue food.

This is a souvenir picture taken in Jeff's Pirates Cove restaurant. I'm not sure what I was thinking back then.

Sampling the local barbecue, we ordered some stuffs and we were served these dishes of different items each with vegetable sidings. It was good old barbecue food but we didn't even finish half of our plates because of the huge servings. Lesson learned - we could have shared so as not to waste food!

Because it's such a small island that you can circle around in an hour or two, there's nothing much to do except to see the wonderful spots or to shop. We passed by Micronesia Mall, the biggest mall in the island, but is a bit out of the way and far from the other malls.

We also bought some groceries that we used for the rest of our stay in the island from the largest Kmart in the world. Kmarts are usually just small convenience stores, but this one is a full blown grocery + department store in one.

Back at the hotel late afternoon, the sun was still shining and it's inviting us to come out and have a good time out so off we went to stroll around the beach and took a dip.

white sand beach of Tumon Bay, late in the afternoon

sunset time

The next day we went out to experience something new - ride a submarine to see the biodiversity of Guam! By Atlantis Submarines, we first boarded a ship which brought us to the middle of the sea.

A submarine docked somewhere in the middle of the water, a bit far from land, was waiting for us. This is the submarine that will take us at the bottom of the sea.

guide to fishes

inside the submarine

The view from the submarine wasn't so great at that time because of the overcast, but nevertheless, we enjoyed the experience of seeing the fishes in their natural habitat.


That was our last day to enjoy the island because we were flying out early the next day (4:00AM and arrived in Manila by 7:45 AM). After some last-minute buying of gifts, we just stayed in the hotel and walked around the shoreline and dipped in the water along Tumon Bay until sun down.


Guam is among the top of the list I've been that is good for relaxation. A laid back island, it has everything that you need - places to relax, visit, shop and even to party!