Saturday, July 18, 2009

A day in Subic

The original plan was to go Capones Island in Zambales but as we traverse the highway and got near Zambales, what started as an early sunny morning turned into a rainy day. We have to immediately change our plans and divert to activities around Subic Bay Freeport Zone so as not to disappoint ourselves. All of these happened yesterday (July 19, 2009) together with Jojo, Patrick M. and Jonathan.

Initally, we plan to go to Ocean Adventure and in fact we already parked right across its entrance gates. We arrived earlier than its opening time (they start accepting guests in by 9AM) so we just brought out our supposedly camping food for the island and ate them inside the car while waiting for the opening time. Further discussions during the food trip led to everyone deciding to do something else instead and so we found ourselves doing Tree Top Adventure later that morning.

Tree Top Adventure in Subic, Zambales is a canopy adventure park situated amidst a lush forestry and greens. Activities here include the canopy chair lift ride, ziplining (superman), trekking and the tree drop.

The three of us did the canopy chair lift ride while Jonathan opted first for the tree drop. People who are close to me knows I have fear of heights and they are concerned if I'm okay with this. I explained that if it's not too daring nor fast moving, I'm okay with the ride.

So how does the canopy chair lift ride work? Basically there's a chair hanging and mechanically tranferred from one point to another. There are 12 station points and the whole ride takes around an hour and a half.

Jojo, me and Patrick M., ready for our first crossover

And off we go!

The cable from one station to another runs for just around 200 feet so it doesn't take to long to reach the next point in every jump off.

Prior to the ride, we were asked to wear harness and a cable that serves similar to a leash for safety purposes. This cable is connected to the chair and then to the rails of the station as we alight on each of them. So this is how a pet dog feels like! :P

For every transfer, one could wander and appreciate the beauty of the trees and the surrounding nature, as well as breath fresh air. There were a few flora and faunas here and there to see and you may ask the person situated on every station for things to look for as you go. It was drizzling when we started but it was bearable.

view from one of the stations

Patrick M., me and Jojo

As we reached the highest peak, rain began to pour and towards the end we were literally drenched all over. At the end of the ride is the canopy walk, which is basically just a walk over the hanging bridge. Depends on where you begin the ride, this can be the first part of the ride or the ending tip of the experience.

For a few minutes, we stayed at the elevated platform to see if the rain will die down a bit but unfortunately it did not so they proceeded to do the superman ziplining activity. I opted not to do this due to being acrophobic so I just changed clothes, freshened up myself and stayed in the car.

It was past lunch time when we left the park and based on a suggestion from Jonathan who happened to be a local in Subic, we ate in Xtremely Xpresso Café, allegedly a famous cafe restaurant located in Dewey Avenue.

I was skeptical about dining here at first because as the name sounds, it is indeed a cafe. On top of my head is something similar to Starbucks Coffee that serve pastries and some but I was surprised to actually see a lot of items in their menu.

Jojo, Jonathan and Patrick M. waiting for the food..

I had the strawberry lemonade for my drink. It looks cool in the picture and it is actually a lemonade blended with strawberry syrup. However when I tasted it, it is very similar to the powdered version I have at home although its not bad at all.

We shared a 22-inch Big Ben pizza, their best-seller pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, beef, bacon, onions, peppers, mushrooms and olives. It was good but the crust wasn't that crunch and great.

Patrick M. and I shared a platter of ribs, served with loads of fries. It was tasty and delicious and not so sweet.

Overall the experience was good and we left with our tummies full to its capacity due to the large servings but I wish I had prepared and made room for the gelato ice cream.

After our lunch, I insisted that we pass by the lighthouse. I thought it was clear to them that we are going to a real lighthouse, and not The Lighthouse Marina Resort and was surprised that we actually headed to the resort. From there though, one can see the Kalaklan Lighthouse.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Jonathan's shack where we crashed and as a retalliation, where we were forced to eat large slices of cakes. Before the sun got down, we left and headed back to Manila passing by the scenic Subic-Clark-Tarlack Expressway.

As we reached the roads of Metro Manila, we decided to have dinner and I suggested to have it at Cookbook Kitchen, a restaurant find that is not so famous but is visited by diners because of word-of-mouth.

I had my usual Parmesan-Crusted White Fish which is served baked and is one of my favorites dishes served by the restaurant. As expected it was creamy, yummy and delicious. I was full though so I had to share my left-over with others who happily obliged.

Jojo had the Wasabi Soy Fish which is okay. However, he expected a "kick" from the Wasabi which left him a bit disappointed. You can read more about his experience from his blog post.

Patrick M. had Frutti Di Mare which is basically like a pomodoro pasta served with shrimps and other seafood items. He said it was okay.

Jonathan had a White Fish with Lemon Parsley Sause. It was good but there was a bitter aftertaste to it, maybe due to the herbs.

For desert, we had a couple of slices of the Kittin's Scarlet Cake which we shared among the four of us. This is one of my favorites although until now I still am not able to describe its taste and flavor. A must try red cake!

Jojo, Patrick M., me and Jonathan - complete group pic at last

As usual, another successful road trip down the line. It didn't went well as planned but we were able to compensate and do something else in lieu of our original intentions.

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Unplanned road trip to Batangas and Cavite

Another one of those sudden and unplanned road trips again.. one Saturday evening, it was almost midnight and just as I got back from the university, I received an instant message from Jojo to go to for a road trip down south early in the morning the very next day. Without thinking much and in a whim I instantly said yes even if I was purely exhausted that day for the lack of sleep the night before and being hyperactive after a few bottles of vodka.

Early July 5, I was passed by Jojo near our place and we went off to Alabang to pass our other companions, Luis and Patrick M., who will be joining us on this trip. After having breakfast, we went inside the car, got the map and scouted for our goal that morning. I pointed to the farthest point southwest of the map which is Cape Santiago in Batangas and our ultimate destination is to see the lighthouse in the area, passing by the usual Tagaytay route to Nasugbu in Batangas.

We had a hard time finding the right path to the lighthouse when we reached Calatagan in Batangas because we had to drive through an off-road to reach the place. At first, we saw an off-road just a few meters away from where we should have turned and at the end reached what seemed to be a private compound. There was a blocking and it was a good thing we did not insist to come in because it was the wrong one.

Turning to other alleys and asking locals around, we finally found ourselves standing in front of the Punta Santiago lighthouse. The structure built in 1890 is still being used today to guide seafarers passing through the waters between mainland Luzon and the islands of Mindoro. However, the compound is enclosed in another gated area which driveway was closed so we were not able to come near it.

And then we saw the rocks that seem to lead to the breakwaters where one would presume to have a better view of the lighthouse even from afar. We braved and climbed down the rocks over steep heights and sharp-stoned shores.

It was disappointing to see this view from down there however. Half of the structure was covered by trees and the it's almost the head that is visible.

Unamazed, we went back after spending a few minutes in the shore enjoying the cool breeze on that very hot sunny day. When we got up, there was a guard nearby and he gave a tip to us that we can actually get near the lighthouse by foot by following a different path. Minutes later and we found ourselves standing right in front of this beautifully bricked century-old structure. Supposedly there should be a stay-in caretaker but he is nowhere to be found at that time so we were not able to go inside.


a cow, tied up near the lighthouse

For lunch, we headed back to Nasugbu proper in Batangas to look for a place to eat. We almost made up our mind to eat in Jollibee, following the road signs leading to it when we saw a signboard that says "Kainan sa Dalampasigan". Immediately we turned left and decided to have our lunch instead in that place that sounded promising.

Kainan sa Dalampasigan literally translates to a restaurant or an eatery that is "by the shore" but we were surprised to enter a zen garden compound where a shore was nowhere to be found. The place looks nice however, and the drive-by entrance had an effect to it so we still decided to stay and have our lunch here.

As we entered the premises, we were welcomed by a small man-made waterfall with vines clinging from the ceiling. Very nature-oriented and relaxing ambience!

Guests are asked to sit down and huge open-air dining hall which make one feel like eating in a marvelous garden. After we sat down, we immediately ordered for food and got the ones recommended by the server.

This was the iced tea that I had. Literally half of it was ice (upper part) and the lower part is the lemon-flavored tea. It was yummy and refreshing although it was full of air that I felt I needed another glass to quench my thirst.

We got a basket of items containing grilled shrimps, fish, clams and pork served with mangoes, tomatoes and onions with sauteed shrimp paste sidings.

The restaurant is famous for it's Tangigue Steak. Tangigue (fish) is cooked and put into a sauce topped with onions. Very tasty and it didn't taste like it was fish!

Bulalo - a soup serving of beef meat and bones slowly boiled into perfection, added with vegetables and corn. One of my all-time favorite dishes best served with fish sauce but the bone marrow is something that shouldn't be taken frequently for health reasons.

Their version of Lechon Kawali (deep fried crunchy pork meat). Very tasty and delicious! Another cardiac delight!

I had a nice and filling lunch at that time and even though we came in very hungry, the four of us weren't able to finish everything we ordered because of the large portion of servings.

With nothing else planned to do for the rest of the day, we headed back to Tagaytay and during the course of discussion, decided to turn and head to Caleruega. This place ran by the Roman Catholic priests of the Dominican order is a famous wedding venue and spiritual retreat. Because this is a religious institution, visitors are discouraged from making noise and activities that will disturb the serenity and peacefulness of the surroundings.

path going up

view from a point in Caleruega

At the peak of the compound is the transfiguration chapel, a small but intimate place to reflect and talk to Him and a popular wedding venue.

inside the chapel

It was raining and we had to run for cover on our way down to the parking lot. We stayed for a few minutes here while talking about things and appreciating the beauty of nature and sweet ambience of silence.

On our way back to Manila, we saw signs to pass by an alternative route and later found ourselves coursing through Cavite and later on reached the Aguinaldo Shrine. The shrine is the home of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Republic of the Philippines. The house itself was already closed so we weren't able to see the and browse through the museum but we still wandered around to take pictures

This is me in front of the Aguinaldo Shrine. The balcony behind me is historical because this is where the Philippine flag was first raised by Emilio Aguinaldo proclaiming Philippine independence last June 12, 1898.

house of Emilio Aguinaldo, a large flagpole carrying the Philippine flag and a monument

Right inside the park grounds, a group of skaters are taking advantage of the closed area to play.

Again, another road trip that turned out successful even without prior planning. We've covered a lot that day and again hoped for the next driving day trip out again as we headed back home.