August 12, 2017

Travel Notes: A Day in Jakarta

Of course a day isn't enough to explore a place as big as Jakarta. But it doesn't mean it's not enough to enjoy it. Happiness, after all, is something you can dictate internally :)

Okay, okay! So here's a rundown of my 1 day itinerary for Jakarta.

Arrival & Currency

Upon arrival at Jakarta airport (Soekarno Hatta Airport), I noticed that it was 10% - 15% cheaper to buy Indonesian Rupiah in Jakarta airport than in NAIA.

Their currency is so big in amount that there's even a bill for 100k Rupiah - which is roughly around P500 only - it was confusing! but try this trick I used:

Exchange rate at the time of travel (.0047 PHP = 1 Rupiah)
Trick - Divide the first 2-4 digits of the amount into 2, and then take note of below:

Thousands - max of P50
Ten Thousands - max of P500
Hundred Thousands - max of P5000

Once I've moved on with the fact that I'm a millionaire in Jakarta, I got a local sim for calls, text, and internet (150k Rupiah for 1.5GB and calls/texts.)

It's difficult to get a grabcar/uber from the airport, because the pick up is outside the arrivals area. And may also be because the place is dominated by local taxis. If you are unable to get a Grab car or Uber, just queue at Blue Bird taxi area. Get a number, and make sure the taxis read blue bird. Blue Bird is known to be the most trusted taxi brand in Jakarta.

Lodging (Fraser Place Hotel Setiabudi)

Their rooms are fully furnished and huge - there is even a walk in closet! There's a pool, a gym, and a recreational area. Food is good too, thumbs up :)


I like their food in general, because it is tasty. Some food joints tho may go overboard and make it too salty or sweet. If you are not a fan of MSG or sugar, advise your servers to go easy on the seasoning.

Jendral Sudirman Street

Since it was a Sunday, Jalan Jendral Sudirman (a major thoroughfare in the business district of Jakarta), was closed for vehicles to make room for joggers, cyclists, street vendors, and even street performers. It was such a lively place to stroll around! But better be early, since the road will be opened up again by 11am. Walk towards the direction of Grand Indonesia as the crowd build up (which includes street performers and vendors) is there. Lots of bicycle gears for sale here!

Grand Indonesia Mall

I wasn't able to go around that much here, but it seems like a typical mall with mid range branded items.

Pasar Baru Market

Pasar Baru is a local marketplace for general merchandises (apparel, shoes, cameras, sports / music items, etc) I enjoyed this place since it caters mainly to locals, and isn't that crowded and overwhelming for tourists. I was able to find a non-branded lens cap for my Sony Camera! Price here is comparable to Philippine SRPs too.

Wayang Museum 

Wayang Museum houses wayang or flat wooden puppets in all sizes. It was interesting to see such intricate artworks in this dusty building. There's even a performance on Sunday, but it was in local language. I heard there is an English performance too, but I wasn't able to see it.

The puppet collections were difficult to contextualize, because the translations are either missing or confusingly written.

It takes everyone to do a puppet show, not just the puppet master. What you see in the screen is not all of the work being done - there are musicians, singers, light directors, props director, and even the audience is partaking in the whole experience.

Isn't it very similar with our achievements? Whatever we achieve, is not from our own efforts alone. There is a always a myriad of help we get from others and the world - whether we realize it or not. And I hope we do realize it, and say our praise for it :)

Overall, I enjoyed my quick stay in Jakarta. Some tourists may get overwhelmed by the busyness of its streets, but coming from Manila, I felt at home in Jakarta. The streets look similar, the people look similar, the attitudes of the people feel similar - everything gives off the Manila vibe! I guess the main difference is just that people do not speak that much English in Jakarta. But hey who cares, a smile bridges all this language difference anyway :)

See you around!

July 2, 2017

Train of Thoughts (Masbate Travel Notes)

Day 4. Comfort or Courage - You cannot have both.

One step at a time.

I calmed myself as I walked on the creaking wooden bridge. I looked around for help in case of emergency, I was alone. The sun almost set. I must have walked almost 1km already.

Pawa Mangrove Park

I held my bag firmly and remembered the valuables in it - cellphone and camera.

One step at a time?
It's almost dark, I won't see the faulty parts of the bridge anymore.
There is not a single soul out here if I fall.
My phone and camera aren't water proof.
It would be very troublesome if I needed rescuing because of bad judgment.

I continued walking further into Pawa Mangrove Park's boardwalk, but alas I came upon a part with detached railings, and sliding or missing planks.

Pawa Mangrove Park

I have to jump.
But what if ...
I have to..

I want to jump.
But I'm scared.
I really want to jump...
But I'm really scared...

Pawa Mangrove Park

Pawa Mangrove Park

Day 2. You can't lie. Not to the sea. Not to yourself.

The boat pierced through the sea, splashing away little droplets, that in turn create ripples, that go round and round and round. I was hypnotized.

I've always liked the sea
Sometimes it scares me,
But I dive into it anyway
I stare at it as if I will miss something important if I take my eyes off of it.

I guess I love the sea
Despite my fear of its vastness.
I lose and find myself in it.

It accepts no lies, and washes away all pretensions. 
Like the night, it intensifies and unravels buried thoughts and emotions.

So it is love.

Lightning struck on the other part of the sea.

"Don't worry, that's not where we're headed," the boatman said.

I let out a smile, "Yep, I thought so too."


We arrived at Halea Nature Park after about 2-3 hrs of boat travel. I snorkeled a bit, okay a lot :D There were sea urchins, clown fish, starfish, tang fish, brain corals, staghorn corals, acroporidae, etc. It was beautiful!

Halea Nature Park

Our group decided to swim to the rock formation on the opposite side of the shore. On our way back, my companion struggled as she wasn't comfortable in water. She was panicking and exerting excessive efforts which made her exhausted immediately.

"Relax. I'm here, I'm here, It's okay." I tried to reassure her.

But I guess seeing just the 2 us left on the farther part wasn't very reassuring.

Midway, a guy helped us pull her back to the shallow part. To be honest, I felt guilty for asking her to come with me, when I wasn't even skilled enough to take her back safely on my own. Ah it reminds me of Ely.

You're still as immature and irresponsible as ever, Arlet.

Afterwards, we stopped by Burobancaso Island and Rock Formations to take some photos, and then headed to Catandayagan Falls right after. Both places were beautiful, but sadly there were trashes all around :( Since Catandayagan falls had no docking area, we just took a quick dip and continued to Buntod Reef and Sandbar. The sandbar was slowly disappearing when we arrived.

Burobancaso Rock Formation

Catandayagan Falls

Buntod Reef and Sandbar

The day was over. Finally the sea's spell will break, but the night will fall soon. Game over, Arlet.

Day 3. Be Open to Changing Your Mind.

I was supposed to enroll to an open water dive course, but (1) I was afraid.... of a heck lot of things, and (2) it was expensive. So instead, my friend and I went to a place that we overheard from the locals.

Palani beach is a quiet beach in the town of Balud. Its shoreline gradually deepens so kids can enjoy the water without fear of suddenly getting drown due to uneven shore. As for me, I mostly enjoyed staring at the trees, the sky and the sea - as usual.

At Palani Beach

There are no restaurants or food houses in Palani, so you'll have to use your charms to ask locals to cook for you, or you can take a habal habal (local motortaxi) to Balud, but even there, there isn't much choice.

I like this town because it is quiet and unassuming. It lets me be - all of me, no questions asked, no explanations needed.

Day 1. I do not seek support, but I hope for understanding. And in cases, those cannot be given, I just want to be heard. 

"I understand, " my companion said as we both lie down on wooden benches.

Masbate is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. When I landed, a province-wide blackout just ended. There were only 3 major fast foods in the whole province, and all have no cold beverages because of the blackout. The inn we stayed out were a little run down, and there was not a single mall around. You could say that in terms of facilities and infrastructure, the place wasn't built to please tourists.

But the people were vibrant, and seemed happy. The tricycle drivers didn't overcharge us. The locals were chatty, and seemed contented with their lifestyle. And the cowboys in them surfaces in little interactions.

The people were heartwarming.


My companion and I went to Sese Brahman's Ranch after lunch. We were the only people around so instead of continuing with our itinerary for the day - we decided to stay here, and talk, and understand.

Sese Brahman's Ranch - Up the Hill

There is a little trek up the hill, with warning signs for bull. We were sooooo quiet because we fear the bull may hear us and chase us. Thankfully, there was none of that. On top of the hill is a guesthouse with a cafe, but it was closed and no one was around, and everything was locked.

It was just quiet. 
All silence. 
Then there were questions.

Sese Brahman's Ranch

To be honest, I may never understand things that way things are meant to be understood. There may never be correct answers, but maybe the questions will suffice. Sometimes, our questions are just as important as our answers.

Day 0. Circle of Life

Four years ago, I briefly met a park ranger when I solo traveled in Taiwan. He spoke about the grand canyon, and his travels gleefully. He made me want to travel, and not be afraid of people. He made me feel like I really could.

And so I did travel, little by little, on my own, with friends, with family, with strangers. I traveled. I still travel and continue to do so.

One droplet may be insignificant to the ocean, but not to the other droplets it affected. Same with us humans, we may think we are insignificant to the world, but there are people around us whom we affect dearly. We create our own ripples. We always count.

Travel Notes and Tips

- I got a 1k/ head daytrip from Masbate island to Ticao islands, food included. See Day 2 for the itinerary. Contact Maru at 0995 465 3176. Going to Burias from Masbate was waaay faar (and expensive) so I just excluded it from my plans.

- P650/night at Sampaguita Inn for aircon room

- Tricycle rides in the city costs around P8-P10 depending on distance

- Ride FX from grand terminal to Balud (to go to Sese Brahman's Ranch or Palani Crossing) for P120/head or hail a habal for P300 one way.

- Sese Brahman's Ranch entrance fee is P50

- Palani Beach's aircon rooms are around 1k, but the prices can be negotiated down during off peak season.

- Tricycle ride from Masbate city to Pawa Mangrove Park is P30/head (don't haggle pls, since it's far.) Tricyle back to city is just P15/head

- Terminal fee from Masbate airport is P100. They were strict with baggage allowance. I had to transfer some of my stuff to my companion's bag because it exceeded my allowable baggage allowance.

Di na ko galit. #Masbate na tayo, #Ticao lang naman e

June 8, 2017

Travel Notes: Sirao Peak & Sirao Flower Garden, Cebu

Armed with my little Bisaya, I took a motorcycle taxi to Sirao Peak. My driver was a chatty fellow - he spoke with me in Bisaya, and I tried my best to understand. Sometimes we were both laughing - but probably at different things - because I suck at Bisaya for now :|

We arrived at the jump off in a little more than 30 minutes. It rained in the area so the trail was a bit muddy, but manageable. I must admit, I still get jitters when I do solo hike no matter how minor the climb is. I can't help it though, doing some things solo excites me!

The trail started off as a rolling hill, with cows occasionally crossing your way. As you ascend, you'll get to the part covered with trees. Just continue walking upwards and you'll reach the campsite shortly, and just 10 mins away is the summit. It was a straightforward climb, and the summit can be reached in less than an hour (or perhaps I was walking fast because I was afraid of the dark, huhu)

Upon reaching the summit, I got confused. Because I was alone, there was no one to validate if it's summit already. To be honest, it kind of felt lonely at the top since I had no one to high five with, no one to say, "we did it!" and generally there's just no one to celebrate it with. It was the first time I felt that way. 

What a weird feeling.

The surroundings were definitely beautiful. But perhaps sometimes you gotta share this beauty with others to fully enjoy it. I couldn't wait to go down and do just that.

This time, I was the chatty one with my driver, and in my broken Bisaya :D

Getting There & Others

Habal Habal from JY Mall to Ayala Heights - P300/motorcycle/way

Since I was alone and no one to share the motorcycle expense with, I negotiated with the driver for P400 back and forth with a sidetrip at Sirao Flower Garden. He agreed! This all in my broken Bisaya. Whaddup yo! Hahaha!

Saw this at Sirao Flower Garden

See you around!


Seeing blooming and wilting sunflowers at Sirao Garden was a deep experience for me. One minute you're so beautiful, at the top of your game, achieving your life's purpose; Next minute, death looms.

*Sunflowers die after it shed away seeds (the seeds of next generation.)

For us humans, we live and we touch other people's lives. So when we die, we hopefully leave a legacy that positively affects the circle of life. We live on through them. Padayon.

May 14, 2017

Travel Notes: Bangantalinga, Iba Zambales

I like the place because (1) it was not crowded, (2) it has fine white sand, (3) it has clear water, (4) it had activities to offer, and (5) our host (a colleague) and her family were very accommodating and helpful! Thanks Gwen and Family!!!

I am not a good host at all - I don't take care of guests, nor attend to their needs. I just let them be - I tell them, "food is in the fridge, here's the kitchen if you want to cook, and please clean after yourself." This is why I do not dare invite anyone to my hometown.


We arrived around 7 in the morning, and immediately set up our tent. The responsible ladies in the group went to the market to buy stuff and prepare for lunch. The rest either slept, sang karaoke, picked mangoes, or played by the beach.

Mango Picking

I was strolling by the beach and saw some locals catching jellyfish that were washed up in shallow waters. These jelly fish don't sting, but tourists were scared of them so the locals caught them with a long metal stick :(

The responsible ladies prepared a splendid lunch!

Boodle fight

Say HALLOW to my lovely team!
After resting a bit, we went boating, snorkeling, and fish feeding (aka vomiting in the sea) - eeep! Seriously though, don't drink, swim, and pass out guys!

There were lots of corals here, but mostly dried up :( good thing there were still small fish roaming around, but I hardly spot them - I have terrible eyesight, especially underwater.

Sunset by the beach

We went back to our tent fulfilled, hungry, and ready for dinner! Yey for a good day!

After dinner, I drank beer to sleep soundly - bad idea because there was no decent toilet around - I had to improvise a little when I couldn't keep it anymore :D

Capping of the night: Stargazing

Getting There: Place was far, we spent around 4-5 hour from Manila to Iba, Zambales.

See you around!

April 30, 2017

Mt Sawi Daytrip Notes

Difficulty: Easy, Mt Sawi circuit can be finished in 4 hrs with plenty of breaks.

How to get there: Bus from Five Star/ ES Transport Cubao to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija , then jeep from Cabanatuan to Gabaldon (but earliest jeepney trip may be around 6am)


P20 - Registration per head
P500 - Guide for up to 10 people (The hike was easy and quick so I was a bit disappointed with the guide fee especially if your group is small, and do not need much helping)

Hiking Notes & Tips

Start early. Hydrate properly. Bring sun protection such as caps/ shades/ sunblock/ umbrella, etc. The hike may be easy, but the humidity and heat can make it excruciating. We climbed 7am and was back before 11am, but the heat was already enough to make it difficult for me to breathe.

Good for beginners - nice view and easy trail.

You can also do a twin hike of Mt Sawi and Mt Mapait


View from Summit

Simbahang Bato

Cogon grasses trail

See you around!

April 1, 2017

Mt Sipit Ulang Daytrip Notes

Mt Sipit Ulang Summit (Sipit Ulang translates to crab claw)

Activities: Hiking, Caving, Rock Climbing & Rappelling, Swimming (Falls)

Difficulty: Mostly easy, can also choose to do some tricky rock climbing parts which may be scary for beginners. These parts can be skipped too, without affecting the original trail.

How to get there:
Fx from Farmers Cubao going to Eastwood Montalban – drop off at Total Gas Station, 1hr (50php/head)

Tricycle to Brgy Mascap Jumpoff , 30 mins (30 php/head or 150 php/tryk)

Budget & Expenses:

Transpo (back and forth) – P160 / head

*For going back from Brgy Mascap jumpoff to Eastwood, you might need to pay for the whole tricycle because there are rarely other passengers going back,

Guide - P500 / group (no sidetrip, max of 5 people)

Travel Notes & Tips

The trek to summit is around 2hrs including LOTS of picture taking and stops already. It can be finish in an hour if your group is not as addicted to picture taking as my group was :D

The trek from summit back is less than an hour

Bring headlamp for the caving part (Phone flash light is okay too, but then you won’t be hands-free)

Use small day pack for the caving part (Full pack is okay too, but challenging to fit some of the cave trail)

No river crossing (summer season, around March)

Gloves will be of big help for rock climbing since the rock formations are sharp

The trail we took are as follows: (1) Snake Trail, (2) Tanawan Bridge, (3) Paniki Trail, (4) No Name (as of March 2017) Cave, (5) Summit.

You can also do twin hike or side trip to Payaran Falls.


See you around!

Caliraya Resort Travel Notes

Activities: Obstacle course, Cycling, Swimming, Kayaking, Fishing, Golf, Zipline, Bonfire, Hanging Bridge

How to get there:

I went there via private transpo, and just used Waze, but I suggest you allot 3-4 hours travel time. I headed out late, thinking that I was just going to nearby Laguna and travel would be max 2hrs, but it was actually far, and was near Pagsanjan already.

Travel Notes and Tips

I enjoyed my stay a lot even if I didn’t get to try all the activities, due to bad weather and late arrival in the area. The staff were nice and accommodating

Because of the bad weather, I stayed indoor the whole day for my first day. Good thing the hut in the fishing village had good ambiance and amenities. Had I stayed in a tent, I might have been sulking the whole day.

Better to eat in the Residence Hotel area rather than wait for the food to be delivered in the clubhouse. There is a free shuttle to and from these locations.

See you around!

January 29, 2017

I Bet on Myself (Mt Damas Dayhike)

"If my knees hurt on this climb, I'm going to completely give up the hopes of being (and actual training to be) a mountaineer this year"

Last therapy session at Tokyo Healthlink Makati

This was a bet I made with myself when I joined the Mt Damas climb. It was the first climb I did after finishing my almost 2 months of therapy. I was hopeful for the result of the therapy but was not expecting much since my knees hurt even from daily activities like walking and sitting in the office. I think it was a time when I couldn't tell myself honestly that everything will be fine - and I can still aim for the summits.

I read about how Mt Damas is a small but terrible mountain. At only 685+ MASL, it was considered a major climb, with a 6/9 difficulty level, and around 10hrs of trek with various trail categories.


I was anxious. I didn't know if I wanted my knees to hurt or not. But I did not want to test myself carelessly in an uncontrolled environment such as a mountain - it's dangerous for me and the group, and disrespectful to the mountain itself. Hence, I made sure to prepare as best as I can.

It was still dark when I opened my eyes. But the light was taking over as we moved. It was a good morning :) The light takes over every morning, is that not enough reason to say that the world is perfect?

Trek Proper

The trail started of as a wide plain, and then there was a 2 hrs of river trekking with few rock climbing. Afterwards was a continuous 1-2 hours of pure assault and sharp cogon grasses to the summit.

Wide Trail

River trekking

Roped segment

I got blisters on my feet soon after starting the trek. Afterwards I got several cuts on my hand and arms from the cogon grasses. Nearing the summit, I felt bruises on my shoulder from the pack that I was carrying. And although my knees don't hurt yet, I feel its clicking already.

"Am I losing the bet?" I thought.

For a moment, I was actually scared to lose the bet to myself. It was a sudden realization of what I wanted to accomplish at that moment.

But I still haven't lost The Bet...

I requested for a quick stop to change into my rubber shoes to relieve the pain from the blisters. I rolled up my arm sleeves to protect myself from cuts. I fixed my knee support. I gulped some water, and breathed out, "I'm still in the bet."

I was now more careful with my steps. I tried to distribute the weight of my body correctly. I used my upper body whenever possible. This is perhaps the most mindful I've been ever since I started hiking.

The summit was within sight, so I calmed my mind to avoid unnecessary fatigue from stress.

Summit and Ubod Falls

We passed by Cardiac Trail to and from the summit, but to be honest I do not remember which part is it, since I feel most part of the trail made my heart pumped fast anyway. Not that I'm complaining - I like that feeling of being so alive anyway :D

We took some photos in the summit, and headed down to a place with shade to have lunch. I was so hungry that I did not enjoy the summit that much.

Sab in the summit, Oye!

View from the summit

Tree (Reminds me of the tree on Tarak Ridge Summit)

After having lunch, we headed to Ubod Falls. The trail from here was mostly river trekking and bits of rock climbing. I had mini heart attacks whenever I slipped because I didn't want to jump forcefully and cause any strain on my lower body.

I'm still in the bet after all.

Ubod Falls is breathtaking. I remember gasping when I saw it. I was sooo amazed. I hear the rushing water from the top, and chill from the cold breeze it produced. All my senses awoken at that time.

It was beautiful.

Ubod Falls

Group shot!


Bus from Victory Liner Cubao to Tarlac and vice versa - P404
Tryk from Camiling to Papaac - P30/head
Tryk from Papaac to Camiling - P50/head (more expensive at night)
Guide fee - P500 / 5 headcount
Registration fee - P20

Hiking Notes

Wear thin arm sleeves during summer to protect yourself from sharp cogon grasses and not feel too hot. Also wear open finger gloves, pants/leggings, and thick socks if you're like me who gets wounded easily

Bring headlamp if there's a possibility of your team getting delayed with the trek.

Always be extra careful and guarded - it's very easy to slip and be seriously injured during river trekking.


Of course I won the bet :)
I'm not the betting kind, but I guess I'll bet on myself anytime.

(c) Miguel