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The rough truth. Before booking your flight, consider already that 2 days of your trip will be wasted just for land travel (Puerto Princesa – El Nido, El Nido – Puerto Princesa). It’s safe enough to book 4 days — 2 days for traveling and 2 days for the island hopping. This is because from Puerto Princesa Airport, it takes approximately 6 hours to go to El Nido if you’re taking a van, even more if you are taking the bus. The van will only have 1 stopover for a short meal and toilet break.
There are no ATMs in El Nido (and I’m not sure if there are establishments there that accept credit cards) so make sure you withdraw enough money before doing that long road trip.
All aboard. There are 4 main tours that you can take. Each tour usually starts at 9AM and ends at 4 or 5 PM so you can only do 1 type of tour in a day. The fee varies (PHP1,000+) for every tour and is already inclusive of the lunch and water supply for the whole day. The boatmen will freshly prepare all the dishes. If you want to reserve your slot, it is better to book directly to the boat companies rather than asking your hotel to arrange it because the price will be cheaper.
Also, there will be a one-time environmental fee of PHP200. This is valid for 10 days of stay in El Nido,
No dry moment. Protect your gadgets by bringing your own dry bag and waterproof cases. It’s great if your camera is already waterproof and not just water-resistant (yes, they are different) so that you can take advantage of camwhoring in every spot you find. Some caves are hard to enter (muddy, slippery, narrow, name it) and some stops will not be going near the shore (in order not to damage the corals) so you have been warned: YOU WILL GET WET. AND SO ARE YOUR STUFF.
Snake Island (Tour B)
Into the Wild. Fish feeding is not allowed so don’t pack bread or cooked rice so that the fish will come near you when you go snorkeling. The same thing goes with other wild animals that you might meet along the way like this monkey in the photo above. When in doubt, ask the boatmen first if they are safe to approach.
Protect yourself. The open sea is filled with creatures you haven’t met yet. Always be watchful for animals that may cause harm like jellyfish. Bring a first aid kit with you, including your medicines for allergies and bandages for small to large wounds. Some corals have sharp edges and are also home to some species of fish. You may startle them if you accidentally step on a coral. Also, if you’re not a good swimmer, it’s better to wear your life vest when you’re out there. Inform the tour guides beforehand that you’re not as skillful as a mermaid. They will be kind enough to swim and pull your life jacket in case the water is too deep to reach the shore or cave.
Where to stay. There are many cheap accommodations in Bacuit Bay, El Nido. If you’re traveling alone, there are backpacker hostels that are below PHP1000/night. Rooms for 2 can range from PHP1000 to PHP4000 depending where it’s located. Beachfront accommodations are fine if you don’t mind the occasional sounds from the restos and pubs which are open until 11PM or 12MN. Otherwise, try booking for the ones found in Calle Hama and Calle Real. They’re just a few minutes away by walking from the shore. Anyway, you won’t be needing much Bacuit Bay for swimming since it’s where the boats are parked.
If you want somewhere a little remote, book a lodge in Caalan Beach. It is 5-10 minutes away by walking from where the night life is. These lodges may be a little far but you get to enjoy the quieter and more serene part of El Nido. Me and my friend stayed in Makulay Lodge, a beachfront hotel in that area. There was a nearby platform there where I took this amazing sunset.
Here are some of my favorite islands from the tours:
Entalula Island (Tour B)
Inabuyatan Island (Tour B)
Seven Commando Island (Tour A)
Pinagbuyutan Island (Tour B)
One of my closest Korean bros visited me in the Philippines. We haven’t seen each other for almost FOUR YEARS. (The photo above was our last meeting in Seoul, 2010. Don’t ask what’s the sense of the pic. We’re just being stupid here.)
His trip here was a bit short (coz he’s busy working in Japan right now and he can’t be really gone for a long time) so we did a quick beach trip to Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, a municipality just 3 hours outside Manila. It was also the first time I used a GoPro camera so pardon some of the shaky footage.
For some reason, embedded Vimeo videos don’t allow you to view them in HD so just go to my Vimeo account and play it there for maximum quality.
I went to the province of Camarines Sur to attend the birthday celebration of my friend. For 4 days, my home was Camsur Watersports Complex (or CWC for short). I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy because I’m not sporty in general but the facility can be a playground for a photographer like me.
Sunrise in CWC. I love how Mt. Isarog reflects on the lake.
Wooden cabins. Fully equipped with air conditioning & hot/cold shower.
You can order food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the clubhouse. No kidding. Food delivery to your cabin is also possible. The dishes are delicious and reasonably priced.
Many foreigners stay here for a long time because wakeboarding is insanely cheap compared to other facilities in the world. They have full day (PHP750), half day (PHP460), and hourly (PHP165) rates depending how long you want to glide on water. The prices already include the vest and helmet rental. Since I was a beginner, I paid for 2 hours on my first day and I really had a blast! For a non-sporty guy like me, I never thought I would be able to stand and cover a remarkable distance. But of course, I wasn’t like these pros in my blog post. They’re the daredevils of the lake!
Not into wakeboarding? No problem. CWC has adult and kiddie swimming pools, a massage area, a running/jogging track and a whole lot more. There’s even a club (with a live DJ playing your favorite songs) if you want to dance and get tipsy! Nature trips to the province’s pristine beaches & breathtaking waterfalls can also be arranged in the resort.
To know more about CWC’s promos and packages, here are the social media accounts to follow:
Don’t forget to also like the province’s official Tourism page Visit Camsur: https://www.facebook.com/VisitCamsur/
One of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines. This was taken during my flight to Davao. No idea what island is this.
If I remember it right, this was the first time I used a 50mm f/1.8 lens. My French friend Edouard happened to be an exchange student at an institute in Makati and I was able to convince him to go to the shabby streets of Binondo to have him as my practice model. We used an old rooftop as our playground.
When I first heard the project of Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar years ago, I was apprehensive with the idea of moving Filipino-Spanish mansions from their original locations. But then, with the lack of government support of preserving historical sites and buildings, something has to be done at the very least to save our heritage. And what they did is marvelous. It really feels like you’ve been time-warped during the Spanish regime.
Recreating the houses was not an easy task. They either requested or bought some of the actual pieces from the old heritage houses that were being torn down or neglected. They relied on old photos to achieve that authentic appearance. Currently, there are more than 20 houses in the resort and there are still some that are being constructed.
You don’t have to check in to get inside the resort. A guided tour for walk-ins is available if you just want to spend a day. The history of each house will be briefly explained and then you’re free to roam around and take pictures. Just a tip: It’s better to call their office in advance if they will have a big tour group coming in that day. Luckily for me and my friend, when we arrived in the morning, we were the only guests until 5 buses full of foreigners arrived at 2PM. Good thing we were finished enjoying the place already.
How to get here (from Manila):
Just do everything backwards to return to Manila.
For more information, visit their website: www.lascasasfilipinas.com
Camp John Hay remains to be one of my favorite places in Baguio. Relatively away from the noise of the city, one can just sit back and enjoy the cold breeze of the Philippines’ summer capital.
Last 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea held a video contest that had the theme “My Best/Favorite Korean Friend/Food is…” Fortunately for me, my Korean best friend Oh Hyun lives in Manila so I convinced him to join the contest. He was very eager about it because the grand prize was a Korean car.
I immediately contacted my 2 Filipino friends (hello, Jeb & Jojie!) from Crevin Media, a small but rising production company that makes awesome videos mostly for weddings (but they cater to other kinds of projects as well so go ahead, inquire about their services.) The requirement for the contest was a 3-minute video only but we had to do a whole day shoot around Manila, Tagaytay, and Laguna.
The study scene shot in Tootsie’s, Tagaytay. Heirloom Filipino dishes await if you dine in here.
Football scene in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Fortunately, there weren’t that much people that day but it rained so hard 10 or 15 minutes after we arrived.
Dinner scene in Manna Korean Garden Restaurant, Poblacion, Makati. Definitely one of the best Korean restos I’ve tried in Metro Manila.
We waited for 4 months and finally, November 2013, the announcement was made (official article HERE.) We didn’t win the car but we still got a Bronze recognition for our efforts. Not bad considering there were 464 entries from different countries around the world!
I attended the awarding ceremony in Arirang TV’s studio in Seoul, Korea last December 5, 2013. It was a memorable experience for me since it was my first time to appear in a Korean broadcasting program and I somehow got to represent the Philippines in an international platform.
Oh Hyun and I would like to thank our families and friends who supported us along the way. It’s definitely one of the best memories in our friendship so we’re very grateful that we’ve reached this far.
If you haven’t watched the video, here it is. Load it in HD quality. It’s much much much better. 감사합니다.
Most people think Taal Volcano is that relatively high land formation on the right side of this picture. That’s Binintiang Malaki. The crater is found in the middle, usually not visible if you’re viewing from Tagaytay. I’ve trekked it twice; one for a school field trip and the other time with my friends.
Calatagan, Batangas is a 4-to-5-hour drive from Manila. (Well, it should have been faster if my friend, who was driving, didn’t get lost on the road.) This bamboo raft was the perfect dining table and the best front row seat to witness the sunset.