2011: The Year That Was

And here goes my year summarized in photos taken from all over the Philippines. I have thus proven that once bitten by the travel bug, one can never go back. Thanks to all the friends I met online at first, on the road eventually. I hope 2012 has a lot more in store for me and my itchy feet. 🙂 Cheers!

Kadayawan 2011: A Food Safari

Foreword: Two months after my Davao trip and I still haven’t written about the dining experience I had during the Kadayawan festival. Having joined the bloggers for the PTB meet-up in Apo View Hotel organized by the great Olan Emboscado, I was fortunate to be part of the three-day gastronomic journey starting with Lachi’s desserts, moving on with the sumptuous lunch at Grab-a-Crab in Abreeza Mall, hearty snacks care of Mam Beb’s Bakeshop, the quintessential Durian-Coke combo, and the 99-peso lunch buffet at Tita D’z.

Firedancers weaving hearts of fire at the Apo View Hotel

          Rubbing elbows with flaming rings. Gahd I wish I knew how to dance with poi.

August 19- After getting a hint of burnt hair (we did a short dancing stint with the uber talented firedancers), we then went to Lachi’s, a restaurant known for its mouth-watering desserts. I was particularly drawn to the Durian-laced cakes (Sans Rival and cheesecake) as I still haven’t tried fresh durian at that time. I figured it would be good to start with these cakes to gradually introduce Durian to my palate.

I instantly became a fan of their desserts! I wrote about the cakes already when their main dishes were as equally tempting. Continue reading

Incense-Burning 101: Davao’s Lon Wa Budhhist Temple

A friend asked me where I get the diligence to write all my adventures and recall all the details of a previous trip. My answer: COFFEE. But seriously, I want to showcase the awesome people I meet during my trips like the security guard at the LongHua (or Lon Wa) Buddhist Temple who also accompanied me as my tour guide and photographer. I should have written down Kuya’s first name because my memory failed me this time and I cannot, with all my powers combined, produce a name from the depths of my mind. It was a good thing though that he had a name patch stitched on his uniform with his last name on it.
Meet Kuya E.S. Cervantes!

I was led into the prayer room, “the office”, the Thousand-Armed Kuan Yina, and even where they keep the ashes of the dead members. My guide suggested I say a quick prayer and burn three incense sticks. I stopped midway through my reflections because I found the smell of incense very sweet and addicting.

A myriad of colors and textures greeted me as I moved from one room to another.

How to get to Lon Wa (also Lon Hua) Buddhist Temple, Davao City :

  • Ride a Sasa-bound jeepney which will pass through Cabaguio Street.
  • Ride a Route 4 or 10 jeepney.
  • Don’t go looking for the Lon Wa Buddhist Temple signboard. LOOK FOR THE PHIL. ACADEMY OF SAKYA.

Pamulak and the Cancelled Davao-Zambo Flight (to my advantage)

I planned to go to Zamboanga right after my Kadayawan experience. Quite a packed week it was, with my 4-day Davao escapade and I didn’t want to brush off the travel bug yet as I already booked Manila-Zamboanga roundtrip tickets care of Airphil’s 100-peso seat sale six months prior to scheduled trip. I would still want to use the return flight so after booking a Manila-Davao ticket, I went for Davao-Zamboanga. Hayok kumbaga.


It was the 21st of August, the day of the flower parade or Pamulak (another highlight of the Kadayawan Festival 2011). As much as it pains me to miss out on the festivities, I carried on and checked out from the hotel early for my 8am Davao-Zamboanga flight. I saw a lot of celebrities at the Davao International airport, some of which I have photographed diligently to make my sisters jealous.


Already at the pre-departure area, the passengers of flight 5J 393 were informed that the flight has been cancelled. Zamboanga-bound passengers were enraged by the short voice-over and I saw an angry mob brewing and going towards the nearest cebupac crew. I pitied the lady in that yellow polo shirt who was assigned to the angry crowd because no matter how many times she explained the situation and the options available, the passengers (mostly composed of senior citizens) still shot the same questions at her, with the same intense fury as the ones who berated 2 seconds before. Kaloka!

The options presented were:

  1. Davao-Zambo next day flight
  2. Davao-Manila same day flight, Manila-Zambo next day flight (5am)
  3. Davao-Cebu same day flight, Cebu-Zambo next day flight (early morning)

I took option number two, lined up for my boarding passes and my complimentary one-way domestic flight (valid for 6months from date of cancelled flight) and went back to the downtown area to witness Pamulak with several travel bloggers! Yehey, something good came out after all! And yeah, we hit the beach too! (The Passig Islet adventure deserves a separate post so watch out for it!)

I was dead tired and I do know that I won’t enjoy Zamboanga anymore because of a wasted day out of my short 3-day supposed itinerary. I also wanted to catch up on my sleep debt so I chose the Davao-Manila, Manila-Zambo option with intention to avail only the first flight. My original Davao-Zamboanga flight only cost me 900pesos and now it will fly me to Manila. Kill me now for being an opportunist.


The supposed 9:40pm Davao-Manila flight was an hour delayed! Talk about overkill. To make up for the all-too-unbelievable damage inflicted on the passengers’ schedule, free dinner was served (a beef dish in tomato sauce which I liked). Upon touchdown in Naia 3, a shuttle service was arranged that would take us to Palm Plaza Hotel (which is neat and cozy despite its ancient feel). The 3-hour hotel accommodation came with a complimentary meal (another beef dish!) and I thank CebuPac for that. Wake-up call came at 3am shortly after I turned on the television and had a hearty laugh with an Eddie Murphy (arrogant-boxer-who-became -accomplice-to-CIA-agent-Owen-Wilson) movie. All I did at the airport was sip a cup of coffee and kill time waiting for the airport-loop shuttle (first trip was at 6am). At that moment all I wanted and needed was an 8-hr sleep.

At the end of the whole fiasco, I realized that the odds were in my favor. I just needed to play my cards right.

The 10-peso 20-minute ride to Paradise: Samal Island

Yet another solo adventure.

My wake-up call was the sweet chorus of birds making their presence known. Yes, there was a mini-aviary in my hotel. Eager to start the promising solo trip, I skipped breakfast and hurriedly left the hotel. Sasa Wharf was my stop and the jeepney fare was a mere P15. I noticed the group of people outside the wharf seemingly waiting for their companions; I approached them but was hesitant to ask for directions to the ticketing office. Instead, I turned towards the sari-sari store nearby and bought myself a bottle of water hoping that I could easily segue into sharing my travel concerns. The vendor turned out to be quite snobbish and as much as I hated having my questions answered in the form of another question, I kept my calm. I saw a group of teen excursionists hurrying their way past a tollgate of some sort and then I followed them. The ticketing station, it turns out, was a small booth where you get a token for 10pesos and you drop this token into a slot in a gate very much similar to that in MRT and LRT stations. How clever and efficient!


Not too long after I paid for my token, the barge was ready to accept passengers. Standing beside a motorcycle and a ladder dripping with oil the color of soot, I didn’t find the transit uncomfortable since it lasted for only 20minutes. I asked a lady near me if she knows of any resort she could recommend as I really don’t know where I’m going. She told me there are dozens, but never really gave a specific name. haha.


Disembarked and walked towards a convenient store for some snacks. I was starving but I needed a quick fill and something I could bring along the way so I opted for some chips and oatmeal cookies. Not knowing my destination, I approached and asked a Habal driver if he could bring me to the city tourism office for my inquiries. He gave me a better deal instead: a half-day tour around the island with stops in Monfort Bat Sanctuary, Hagimit Falls, and a beach resort of my choice (but I didn’t really know the choices so I went with what he recommended- Paradise) for just P350. The fare was originally set at P500 but I worked my charm. haha


 Monfort Bat Sanctuary (Entrance Fee: 40pesos)

It was a sight to behold. The cream limestone walls held black curtains of fruit bats. I marveled before the five cave openings that serve as home to 1.8billion Geoffrey Rousette Fruit bats, the largest colony of the said bat kind in the world! I didn’t mind the mosquitoes and the humid, putrid air filled with the stench of guano. I simply clicked away.

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Kadayawan Festival 2011: One Davao

Davao is a bustling metropolitan city still perfectly in touch with nature and tradition, keeping a careful balance of the new, the old, the strong, the wild, and the free. I was truly surprised to find the wide avenues, the heavy traffic, and the numerous malls. Yet more surprising was the fact that within access were the nature parks (Gap Farm Resort, People’s Park), the beach (Island Garden City of Samal, Passig Islet), and the wildlife centers (Philippine Eagle Center, Crocodile Park). Davao is a city of equilibrium. A sweet harmony of nature, tradition and progress is also exemplified by the Kadayawan Festival, this year having the theme “10 tribes, 1 vibe”.

P.S. I was lucky to have witnessed this colorful affair and I have Olan Emboscado to thank for the media pass.

Art Stud 1: Davao’s Ponce Suites Art Gallery

Ponce Suites is an unconventional hotel in Doňa Vicenta Village, Davao City which doubles as an art gallery as works of the celebrated Filipino artist Kublai populates the hallways, the hotel facade, the walls and the ceilings. Sculptures surround the establishment from a man taking a dump, to a kid in the quintessential oblation pose, to individuals coming to life out of a giant durian fruit. Kublai Ponce Millan is a UP Fine Arts graduate whose works are very much visible in the whole of Davao, from the Davao International Airport to the center’s People’s Park. And recently, Kublai embraced the world’s spotlight when his works were displayed at St. Peter’s Square, Rome, Italy for the Vatican Nativity scene.

I hailed the first tricycle that came to sight when I happily came out of Kangaroo Coffee Company (at the corner of V.Mapa and Tionko Streets). Fare was 30pesos and I was still in disbelief as I could not make out how close Ponce Suites was from the coffee shop with my google map as reference. Good thing I asked the cafe employee for directions. One of the many things I appreciate about the Davaoeňos is that they always are helpful in giving directions, answering questions, giving advice, and providing options.

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Tales of the G.I. in Davao: The Phil. Eagle Center on Public Commute

 Jumpstarting the long day ahead, I left the hotel at 6:30am. I knew that I needed time to spare for the instances that I would get lost. I was pretty certain of this.

The hotel receptionist informed me that in order for me to get to the Annil Bus Terminal, I have to ride a jeepney to Gaisano Mall and then ride another one passing through Quirino. My stop was at San Pedro Extension Corner Quirino Avenue where one can find the Calinan-bound buses. My destination: the Philippine Eagle Center.

For some strange reason, I missed my stop yet again and found myself already at Buhangin Road going towards the Davao International Airport. Oh silly me, I saw the nearest Jollibee and alighted from the jeepney. Aside from the growling stomach I was nursing, I was also drawn to the food store because of the free Wifi. No, I didn’t ask for directions from the guard which was the instinctive thing to do. The first thing I did was tweet about getting lost in Davao. Talk about priorities! Haha

Eventually I asked directions from the guard after having breakfast. I rode the Buhangin jeepney which passes through Qurino, and asked the driver to drop me off at Annil Bus Terminal. Seeing that the bus was still empty, I asked the conductor the departure time. I didn’t really hear what he said and simply assumed that we all have to wait till the bus is filled to the brim. I was surprised that we left after 15mins, with me being the only passenger. (Bus Fare to Calinan: P36)

From the town center, I rode a motorcycle (habal) to the Philippine Eagle Center for P20. I paid the entrance fee of P50 and went to see croc, the monkeys, and of course the eagles. There was a group of kids who were guided by Ateneo de Davao University students. Perfect opportunity for a free tour-guide through eavesdropping! Haha. Portions of what I heard: artificial insemination (which I don’t know how they explained to the kids), Junior, and Pag-asa.

I grabbed some refreshments at the souvenir shop and took photos of the cute keychains. Weeee! Now I had to catch another bus to the city because it was nearing noon and I still have a list of places to go to.


Davao Lakbay-Aral: Gap Farming Resort

I met up with my high school friend Em at an internet café across Victoria Plaza that afternoon. It was convenient for me since I came from Ponce Suites in Dona Vicenta Village and Victoria Plaza (along J.P. Laurel) is only a couple of meters from the gallery. I never really thought about how to get to Outland Adventure in Ma-a Road which is our destination that afternoon. After asking directions how to commute to the place, I was quite adamant on taking the jeepney- 1st ride to bangkerohan market and the 2nd to Ma-a. So you could only imagine my disappointment when my friend told me he wanted to take the cab instead.

I detest taking cabs when traveling if not for my last resort, you know those times when I go about riding 3 jeepney routes only to realize that I am getting farther and farther away from my original destination. I always take the jeepneys because I want to break free from my geographic idiocy and of course, I want to stay within my means. After a little convincing, and a reassurance that the fare will be split in half, I agreed. I read that Outland Adventure is beside Gap Farming Resort, and since Gap is the more popular of the two sites we told the driver to drop us there.


Greeting us was the giant statue of a man on his carabao with a plow in hand. So huge in fact was it that I shrank to just the size of its hoof.

There were various parades going on during our visit. There was the parade of Philippine presidents.

The parade of Filipino heroes.

The parade of tamed and wild animals.

And the parade of indigenous peoples. (not photographed)

What caught our attention was the Japanese tunnel dating back to 1941. For a fee of 10pesos you could enter the tunnel and traverse your way out.

It was fun being kids again, with the wacky poses and the fright stories. Oh elusive childhood, let us eat Sunshine peas and inflate plastic balloons that we shaped through our tongues and our lips. Till we meet again!

Coffee with a Kick: Kangaroo Coffee Co.’s Durian Mocha


It was past noon when our bus from Calinan finally reached the city center. I was the only passenger left and the driver asked me my stop. I saw the Central Bank at Quirino Avenue and I alighted from the bus because I wanted to treat my eagle overload with a sumptuous lunch. I walked about two blocks towards the corner of V.mapa and Tionko St. Yes, I had a map with me actually, Google maps printed prior to the trip. Haha, prepared.

Kangaroo Coffee Company. The interior gives off a cozy ambience probably due to the sofa benches arranged in separate cubicles with a large rectangular table in the center complete with separate lighting fixtures and with a touch of intimacy provided by the separate heavy cream curtains. Hats off to the idea of setting up a mini-library within the cafe for free leisurely reading for the customers. I, for one, love reading in coffee shops and in the event that I fail to bring along a book of my own, I could easily browse through the diverse collection provided by the cafe.

I had such a whale of a time in the bathroom. haha. I fancy the sign for ladies-gents represented as jacks-jills, staying true to the Kangaroo analogy. I love how it poses as a private sanctuary where you could let out everything (more than youknowwhat). The perfect dim lighting, the artworks mounted on the walls, the books and magazines just laying out there waiting to be browsed through. I could spend a whole afternoon there but of course out of shame and self-worth (haha), I limited my stay (?nagcheck-in) to a standard 10 minutes.

I ordered the Durian Mocha Heaven Ice-Blended drink and boy did it kick my taste buds! When I raised the cup to my mouth, the strong durian aroma hit me, truly a blow to the nostrils. The fruit bits married the mocha beautifully, imparting a sweet and juicy textured lot to the otherwise usual caffeine fix. I ordered the Salsa Amaya, as recommended by the lady manning the counter, composed of spaghetti tossed in olive oil and topped with fish flakes, mushrooms, olives, and parmesan. It was absolutely divine! Brilliant combination of flavors with the meatiness of the mushrooms enhanced by the saltiness of the fish and balanced by the bitter-sour taste of the olives, and finished off and flavors rounded off by fine parmesan.


I left the cafe satisfied, happily hopping about with the pouch on my tummy filled with great food and delectable coffee with a kick.