Places

KAWAKAWA NATURAL PARK (LIGAO, ALBAY)

The beginning of the rainy season can now be felt here in Bicol, even though the heat is still the same as if summer is not quite ready to leave just yet. The rain falls every now and then, at the most unexpected times, as if to mourn the death of our soldiers who fought hard in battle to keep the peace and to protect the innocent in Marawi. God bless them. And as the country is torn and heartbroken over the war waged by the terrorists against the government and its people, I myself don’t feel the enthusiasm to urge people to travel and have a fun time just now.

However, I would like to introduce a place that is great for introspection. A peaceful place that can be a solace for troubled minds. In this time of turmoil for my country, we need to find that peace within ourselves, to extend our hands to God for comfort. Below are the photos of my visit to Kawakawa Natural Park in Ligao, Albay some years ago. It is a place I can think of that made me feel so near to God before, even though God is really within us all in the first place.

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“Welcome to this famous hill without a hilltop” the marker says. The locals have told us that Kawakawa Hill is so named because the shape of its crater  is easily likened to a “kawa” or a wok being used for cooking.

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Every summer is the right time to visit to witness hundreds of sunflowers while in bloom. Unfortunately, when friends and I went there they have just harvested the flowers a few days ago, which then left us with only a few blooms to enjoy.543242_447582698591974_1930491131_n554638_447581715258739_103050721_n536653_447583481925229_1140660211_n

The view from the top was so relaxing that I can easily see myself retiring and living in such a place. There is something about being in a high place that is uplifting to the spirits as well. I remember instantly feeling better.576365_447581998592044_1393260001_n562627_447582368592007_1719302356_n542362_447584278591816_778806875_n525787_447582041925373_1550998116_n

KawaKawa Park is not hard to find. There are markers along Maharlika Highway in Ligao, Albay that points to the direction of the park which is located in Tuburan. So whether you come from Legazpi or from Manila, it is very accessible. The entrance fee happens to be P10.00 only. Also, the locals are quite helpful and friendly so there should be no reason to get lost.

Resorts

AMESOLA SPRING VALLEY RESORT (DEL ROSARIO, NAGA CITY)

Hello again and Happy Mother’s Day to all supermoms out there!

Anyway, since yesterday was Mother’s Day and we really do celebrate every special occasion like Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, every birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Day and the list goes on, we decided to go swimming at Amesola Spring Valley Resort in Del Rosario, Naga City. I remember one of my readers here commented that I really seem to like water. He’s probably right.lol.

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Twin Pool

Now this resort is very near our place, in fact, we probably got there in less than 10 minutes via the tricycle that we rented for P100. However, if you are coming from Centro Naga, you will need to take a jeepney to Del Rosario (P10.00 each person) and tell the driver to pull over at the corner of Del Rosario-Cararayan Road. It’s hard to miss because it is located just right before you pass the arch that says “Welcome to Naga City.” Then, ride a tricycle to the resort (P5.00 each person). However, if you are coming from the direction of Legazpi or Pili, you may take a bus or UV Express van and pull over at the corner of Del Rosario-Cararayan Road.  Then wait for a tricycle to convey you to the resort.

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When you get there, the entrance fee for adults is P150 each while the kids go in for P100 each. The cottages are priced at P600 and above and you get to use their three (3) swimming pools where the water they say is always fresh and cool as the source is the nearby Mount Isarog. The newly renovated pool, which is located at the right side of the resort, is bigger and has lounge chairs for those who care to go sunbathing (although sunbathing is not really a thing for Filipinos). Anyway, I recommend if you go to the resort, get a cottage by this bigger pool especially if you are bringing kids along, because the cottage we got was situated by the Twin Pool (on the left) and the water at the kiddie pool thereat had these things floating around (not sure what). And I thought the water at the bigger pool looked more fresh.

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The resort is rather basic and simple, but I can tell they have been putting in best efforts and invested a lot of money to turn the whole place into what they hope would be a cutting edge facility someday. It paid off somehow judging from the marked improvement of their pools and amenities. For instance, there is a gym now featuring new modern equipment. There are fitness programs available too. Their rooms (for overnight stay) have been newly renovated and clean, although the prices have gone up as well. What with P1,500 for single occupancy! I don’t think it’s wise considering their location is really far from Centro Naga (where the malls, shops and restos are). I mean, if you are travelling to Naga City solo, you’d wanna get a standard room at Nagaland Hotel (for about P700), which is affordable and pretty much close to everything.

 

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They have a waterlily pond

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Anyway, Amesola Spring Valley Resort has been under renovation for over a year now, but there is still much to be done, especially in the area of landscaping. The place is spacious and has a forest feel to it that they should put into good use. I guess because people would love an exotic place where they can feel one with nature. They need to maybe spruce the place up with more flowers and fruit trees. And maintenance staff should be on the look out for people who litter by the pool for goodness sake! We have seen litter all over the Twin Pool area. And if guests (especially small kids) can’t be imposed upon to behave impeccably, then the staff must take it upon themselves to keep the place no less than immaculate.

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My over-all verdict is: I was pleasantly surprised that the resort is very near where I live but apart from their decent sized swimming pools and noisy videoke, there is not much to offer the day swimmers.  A koi pond or a large aquarium, some fruit picking, a vegetable farm, bikes to rent, a zip line, hanging bridge and a wall to climb would have made a world of difference. However, with all things considered, we still had a good time. I guess when you’re with a kid and she enjoys swimming so much, you kinda get the feeling that you’re having fun as well despite the unbelievable noise of three videoke machines playing simultaneously.

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I’m looking forward to when they have made the place truly packed with entertainment and more refined, with stricter rules against littering, especially when their videoke machines are finally placed farther apart. I hope to see some more noteworthy improvements on my next visit.

Beaches

DARUANAK AND MAINIT ISLANDS (PASACAO, CAM SUR)

It was my first time to go to Pasacao two days ago, and it was only about 40 minutes of commute from Naga City, where I live. That near, but it took me nearly six years before I was able to go. I used to hear about it a lot though. I also heard that the beach was not impressive so I was not really in a hurry to see it.

So, it was the perfect opportunity when a family reunion (Yoy’s side) was scheduled on the 3rd of May to finally give Pasacao a visit. Although I learned that it has always been their tradition to hold the reunion on that same date every year, it was our first time to attend. I guess, we always had a valid reason (or some poor excuse) not to go.

Anyway, how to get there from Naga City? Ask a tricycle driver to take you to the van terminal in Sabang near LCC Department Store. The tricycle fare is P8.00 per person while the van fare to the town of Pasacao is P50.00 per person. Upon reaching Pasacao, ask a tricycle driver to take you to Barangay Balogo where the beach is. The tricycles can be rented for P100.00 per trip to transport a whole group of people to Balogo. There should be no problem looking for a place to stay when you get to Balogo as resorts and travel lodges are everywhere.

As expected, Balogo beach was no reason to jump up and down about. The beach was crowded and loud with drunk people singing karaoke the whole night, and a bit disorganized. The sand  is also on the gray side and dogs roam about. So, at the crack of dawn the next day, we rented a boat for P600 to bring us to the island of Daruanak- the one just across the beach. And to Mainit Island after.

Daruanak Island

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Daruanak Island has a nicer beach, it is on the lighter side with broken corals and rocks. It’s a lot cleaner too, even the water looks bluer. A lot better for swimming.

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We did not take a dip that time though because someone said there were urchins, so we decided to head on to Mainit Island, which is so called because there is a spring thereat that spouts hot water.

The view on the way to the next island…

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Mainit Island

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In Mainit Island, the water is a little warm which is great for swimming. The shore is full of pebbles, all of different shapes, sizes and colors. I even found some blunt white crystals that got me a little excited. I had a field day picking my loot, only to leave them all behind on the boat when we got back to Balogo beach =(DSC02905

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It was a good day that went by too fast, then finally, it was time to go back home. Our happy faces though could mean we may be back next year. Same day too!

 

Beaches

Aguirangan Island Experience, Presentacion, Cam Sur

Sun, sea and wind on your face. Enough to make you forget all the never-ending deadlines at work and finally be free, even just for a day or two. All you need for a weekend getaway. Jason Mraz sang “You don’t need a vacation when there’s nothing to escape from…” Unfortunately for the rest of us working folks Jason, we do need a vacation.

So one time, we gathered everyone and cramped ourselves in two vans and headed off to Aguirangan Island looking for just that, an escape, a weekend getaway from work.

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Aguirangan Island is located in Maangas, Presentacion, Camarines Sur, around 2 hours away from Naga City. So, we took the Pili Diversion road and turned left and drove all the way to Presentacion. Upon reaching Barangay Maangas, we coordinated  with the Barangay Captain for guidance where to park the vehicles while we spend the night on the island which was on sight from the Barangay Hall by the way. Now, proper coordination was a must for our safety and the safety of the vehicles, plus they hooked us up with the bankero (boatman) so we would get a good deal.

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Upon reaching the island, I was surprised that it was actually quite small and can be toured on foot in 5 minutes, the others said. So Manong Caretaker ushered us to this shady cottage which is a little far from the beach. They have these cottages under tall trees, which can feel a little creepy though since it felt like you’re deep in the woods. It is way better to stay in the cottages on the beach front for better view and access to the beach. Although, don’t expect to find air conditioned private rooms as there aren’t any. An open cottage is all you get, unless you bring your own tent. Our overnight stay costed us Php2,000.00 for the cottage and for use of amenities (public bathroom only) including the generator as the source of power to light up the whole place.

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Anyway, the beach was amazing! Although the sand was not as fine and as white as in Boracay, but it is more like tiny broken corals like the ones in the sand bar of White Island in Camiguin. And the water was not too cold, just perfect for a relaxing swim.

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By the way, the entrance fee for day time swimming is Php35.00 per person. There is no store on the island, so bring enough food, water and everything you think you’ll need for your day at the beach. Also, day swimming might be the better idea on this island since as nice as the place is, the state of its public bathroom was not for the faint of heart. Manong needs to do a better job cleaning it as the visitors need to be more responsible in using it.

DSC_0541The next day before we went home, Manong Bankero, as suggested by the Brgy Captain, gave us a surprise treat by taking us to a river (Salog) in the barrio where the water was refreshingly cool and clean. It was the perfect finale to our weekend getaway. (Credits to Bam for the great shot of the river below).DSC_0800

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Hotels

SELVINA’S HOTEL AND RESTAURANT, SORSOGON CITY

Last Good Friday, we went home to Sorsogon City for what turned out to be a pleasant family reunion, wherein my oldest brother and his family also came home from Manila. Anyway, I noticed that no matter what time of the year, it always always rains whenever we go home. Since it is summer, there had to be a typhoon then – Typhoon Crising.

On the first night, we stayed at Dona Mercedes Country Lodge. Now this lodge has a lot of good reviews from Trip Advisor raving about how clean and comfortable it was and all that. But after our brief stay, all I can say is that you only really get what you paid for, which is not much.

However, on our second night, and after a whole day of frolicking in the waters of Bacon Beach, we checked in at Selvina’s Hotel and Restaurant which is located in Pangpang, Sorsogon, just along Maharlika Highway.

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It was night time when we arrived and the hotel had all these attractive incandescent lights going on making its façade glow, and the kids went “Wowww.” Now I wish we had booked a bigger room so we could all stay together, but I had the room booked a month ago when I thought we were the only ones coming home.

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Anyway, I got the Double Standard room for a steal as the original price was Php1,500.00 including VAT and surcharges, but less travelbook.ph discount of Php240 and less Php600 (for my 600 points redeemed), I only paid Php660. I earned the points from booking hotel accommodations and writing reviews.

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The Double Standard room was very nice and clean. I liked the simple design and the classic neutral colors they used for the room (just white, black, brown and nude). I also liked that it has a couch, a center table, a coffee table and complimentary coffee. They also put a hot/cold water dispenser on the lobby so the guests don’t need to buy. The AC was functional and the bathroom has hot/cold shower and a bidet, and very clean as well. The usual towels and toiletries are likewise provided.

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On the other hand, wifi was slow inside the room and the TV was kinda small. But the addition of the veranda was a real pleasant surprise.  It was nice to enjoy the view over a cup of coffee in the morning. I’m gonna bookmark this hotel for when I need a room again soon. (P.S. sorry naman po sa pag-mowdeling. Last na yan pramis hehe)