Long and Winding Road



On our way to Baguio 2 weekends ago, joining my friends from Tuguegarao I took the long route to the “pine city”.  Took us a leisurely 8 hours (with several stops along the way) to arrive through the newly rehabilitated Baguio-Aritao Road passing Ambuklao Dam.  It was a scenic albeit winding road almost all of 104 kilometers.


It may be long for me who hail from Manila but for my friends from Northeastern Luzon, the road provides a shorter route cutting 2-3 hours by avoiding the longer Pangasinan and Neuva Ecija route via Dalton Pass.


At one point, we stopped along the road to take some photos and soak in the scenery.

pineFor more entries of other worlds, click here.


WS #8: Fresh Berry Goodness

Despite a crazy week in Baguio City, it was a weekend full of activities including swimming through a sea of people during the Panagbenga festivities.  This post however is not about the festival (that will be for another post) but about my visit to a wild bluberry plantation in Tublay and the strawberry capital of Baguio, La Trinidad.


Strawberries (and blueberries) are all-time favorites. Strawberries, however, tops the list especially if they are firm and sweet.  The strawberries that greeted us that day, probably just a few hours after harvest, looked so fresh and shiny, almost like plastic.  I had to restrain myself from eating the whole 2 kilos of it.


The next town, Tublay where we dropped by a blueberry plantation, is just a few minutes away from Trinidad.  Not exactly the blueberries we are familiar with, these blueberries are tropical and thrive in less harsh weather.  As an aside, I learned that majority of blueberries flourish in harsh weather, the colder it is, the better for the blueberries.  Our blueberries are smaller and have less meat but that tiny piece of fruit is so bursting with flavor.  Because it is grown in the wild, supply is scarce.  It’s virtually gone even before harvest is completed.


And the view is enough to make the trip worthwhile.


Lucky for me, berries are said to contain phytochemicals and flavanoids that may help to prevent some diseases.  Eating a diet rich in blueberries, strawberries and other berries may help reduce your risk if several types of cancer.

For more weekend snapshots, click here.

Café By the Ruins

Whenever I find myself in Baguio, I make it a point to have a meal in this highland café across the street from Baguio City Hall.  I used to think that the ruins were from the big 1991 earthquake that changed Baguio.  Turned out that it used to be the pre-war residence of the governor of Benguet destroyed during WWII.  You’ll hardly find any ruins today for as you enter, you immediately notice the cozy native and artsy ambience.  Visitors may have a glimpse of its ruined past through the photos hanging on the walls.


Known for its organic cuisine, this café first opened its doors in 1988 originally meant to be a place to hangout among friends and artists but grew to be a bastion of the art community of Baguio and a favorite dining spot of both highlanders and lowlanders alike.

Last January, coming down from Sagada, we had a few hours in Baguio and where else did we tread?  It was a nice lunch of Forest Stream Soup – a delicious gingery broth with sautéed shitake and watercress.


Tita Susie’s Crispy Tapa – something like crispy adobe in beef, served with mountain red rice.


A glass of Lassie with salt and pepper – different but lovely.


Ruins coffee – mountain coffee filtered with cardamon, topped with whipped cream, muscovado sugar stick and cinnamon powder – not the typical black (no cream, no sugar) coffee I that prefer, the cardamon piqued my fancy.  No regrets as the cardamon gave it a nice twist.


Madeleines – originally from France, this cookies seems more like a cake, soft and dense.


And do not leave without trying some of their famous Camote bread which we partnered with Guava Jam and butter.  Yum!


If you’re after ambience and organic dishes of the north, make sure to make your way to Café By the Ruins.  Their menu changes regularly depending on what’s in season in that part of the cordillera, although they also keep their best sellers such as Longganisang Hubad and Pinikpikan.

Oh and to keep with the topic, I’m off to Baguio tomorrow, by the way, just to chill and maybe enjoy some of the festivities of Panagbenga.  Have a nice weekend!

Useful details:

Café By the Ruins
23 Chuntug, Baguio City
Tel # 442-4010

30 Random Things to Do in Sagada


I love the mountains.  I often find myself craving for the crisp fresh scent of pine air. Although that yearning is not always appeased, I do try to indulge every so often by spending a few days up in the mountains, sometimes Baguio will suffice but many a time it’s Sagada that I yearn for.  Many ask what I do when I’m there.  On many occasions, it’s just spent chilling out but there are so many activities worth exploring and here are some that came to mind (some still unchecked on my bucket list). Inspired by the 25 random things about you that is currently promulgating Facebook, here’s my random list of things to do in Sagada, except that I got carried away and came up with a list of 30.  This list covers an array of activities from chilling to thrilling and all the in betweens.  Do add to the list!   😉

  1. Hangout at the Basketball court near St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and get to know the locals and/or fellow travelers.
  2. Buy the best bread in Sagada at Masferre Inn.
  3. Explore Sumaging Cave or better yet, do the connection and traverse to Lumiang Cave.
  4. Trek to The Big Falls (Bomod-ok) passing through beautiful rice terraces.
  5. Take a dip in the icy-cold water of the Big Falls.
  6. Order the Pork Tenderloin specialty at Log Cabin.  One can’t leave without having tried it.
  7. Take an afternoon merienda of German Chocolate cake (best with coffee) at the Cooperative in front of St. Mary’s.
  8. Pay a visit to the Pottery workshop on your way to Lake Danum.  A bit pricey but the craftsmanship is first class.  Investing in at least a piece or two will not only make a superb souvenir, it fires up the sagada-coffeepotters to forge on as well.
  9. Get lost in Kiltepan and delight in the panoramic view of the terraces at the tower.
  10. Walk around town, visit the market especially on a Saturday, it’s market day.
  11. Ride top load (the roof of) a jeepney (if you’re coming from Bontoc).  It’s fun and less dusty.
  12. Pick up some Sagada coffee at 18 Days Coffee Roasters.
  13. Devour the fantastic yoghurt at Yogurt House.
  14. Climb the walls of Echo Valley.
  15. Or if you can’t climb, how about counting the hanging coffins at Echo Valley instead?
  16. Have the nummy Banana Crepes at Ganduyan Inn.
  17. Stay at Mapia-aw Pensione and enjoy the stunning view from your room or balcony.
  18. Or alternatively, get a cottage at St, Joseph and enjoy the privacy of your own place.
  19. Go orange picking at Rock Inn.
  20. Stop by Masferre Gallery to ogle at the awesome photos of Sagada taken in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s by the late Eduardo Masferre. sagada-lemonpie
  21. Read a book while enjoying a piece of either the lemon or egg pie at the newest town fancy, Lemon Pie House.
  22. Wake up early and bike to Marlboro Country to try to catch a glimpse of the wild horses.
  23. Try itag, a cured meat similar to a slab of bacon, unsliced.  Best in soup, monggo or pancit.
  24. Conquer Mt. Ampacao and revel in the outstanding view once atop it.
  25. Enjoy a picnic of wine, cheese and some cold cuts while admiring the beauty of Echo Valley.
  26. Bike to Besao and witness the sunset, raved to be the best in that side of the cordillera.
  27. Get a massage at the privacy of your room or cottage.
  28. Play board or card games or simply relax beside the fireplace at either Mapia-Aw Pension or St. Joseph Resthouse.
  29. Go shopping at either Sagada Weaving or Ganduyan Store.  They have lovely locally produced items for keepsakes.
  30. Raft the Chico River from Dantay to Bontoc.  To do so, look for Steve Rogers – he’s not hard to find.

Ibulao Ibulao




This was taken in Ibulao River, Kiangan.  Not many have rafted or even know of this river (I think) and as the photos on the slideshow below exhibits, it is a fantastic 3 hours of rafting experience with a view so impressive.  An interesting place rich in history, Kiangan is believed to be the first human settlement in Ifugao.  This is also where Ifugao and American troops helped force General Yamashita to make his informal surrender in World War II.

We stayed in a charming hostel owned by the Kalugdans, I remember the food to be superb.  This was a special trip organized by Adventures and Expedition Philippines Inc. (AEPI) to explore the river.  They have since run several trips running the upper portion of the river.  Definitely worth a try.

This has been my entry to That’s My World.  Go visit and  find other worlds here.

Getting There:

Take either Autobus or Florida Bus Line to Banaue, get off at Kiangan.


Contact Details:

Auto Bus
Espana cornor Catalina,
Sampaloc, Manila
Phone:  735-8096

Bus fare:       P 460

Florida Bus Line
Sampaloc, Manila
Phones:  743-3809 / 731-5358 / 493-3667

Bus fare: P 450

Sleeping Arrangements:

Kalugdan Hostel, Kiangan
Ibulao Ibulao
Dra. Tess Kalugdan
Adventures & Expeditions Philippines Inc. (AEPI)
Anton Carag

Summing Up the Year That Was

I am blessed.  Blessed to be able to explore the world, albeit not as extensive as I want to but I’ve had some fair share of adventure and fun last year.  So I’m not complaining.  Last year was a good mix of local and international travels, small and big trips. Rounding them up, there were highs and lows, great satisfactions and some disappointments.  Here’s a run down of my best and not so best experiences of 2008.

The Disappointment


Donsol – in pursuit of the elusive whale sharks (Feb)

We were ready to jump anytime but the whale sharks were scarce.  There were way too many boats, way too disorganized and so we caught a glimpse of its… tail.  Oh well… this calls for another trip sometime in the future.

One Miserable Climb


Mt. Pulag – rained out! (Feb)

We started the trek with just overcast clouds, then it drizzled and when we reached the campsite, it poured.  It let up a bit just so we can go to the loo and cook our dinner.  Then it started again.  Rained the whole night and the whole day, next day.  Needless to say, the summit was foggy and really, really cold!  No sunrise, just slippery, flooded trails.  Good thing this was not my first time here and I’ve seen a glorious sunrise in 2002.  But we still had fun.

My Favorite Asian Destination (thus far)


Luang Prabang, Laos (Mar)

The jewel of Indochina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and its tributary, the Khan River, Luang Prabang to me is a city where time stood still.

It was a wonderful 5 days of various adventures. One day was spent trekking to the Kwang Si falls, another learning to cook Lao dishes. There were a lot of walking, eating (Lao and French meals), sunset cocktails and we even had a taste of a traditional Khamu massage. It was fantastic.

A Delightful Road Trip


Viaje del Sol (Apr) – a blend of good food and the arts.  From Kusina ni Salud (for dinner) to Ugu Bigyan (for lunch and his potteries) to Carlito’s (for coffee, mangoes and his sculptures) in one weekend resulting to another follow-up weekend.  This time, we stayed in Casa San Pablo, checked out Kinabuhayan Café, and had a satisfying lunch at Sulyap Gallery Café, a restaurant cum antique gallery.  There definitely will be a 3rd trip to this Viaje del Sol sometime in the future.  Perhaps we’ll try a meal at Kinabuhayan Café, try that famous buko pie locals are raving about and do an overnight at Sitio de Amor.

Wonderfully Surprised


Dolphins Galore at Puerto Bay (May)

Didn’t even know that they had a lot in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  There were tons of ’em.  What we didn’t see in Donsol, these dolphins made up for.  We didn’t even need a spotter as they were all over the place.  Never saw so much in my life.  Tons and tons of them.  Hope to dive there someday.

A Junk Experience


Cruisin’ Halong Bay, Hanoi (Jul)

When in Hanoi, one must experience cruising along Halong Bay in a junk at least once. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the bay features calm water and thousands of limestone karsts and islets in various shapes and size.  Something like Palawan.

A Star-strucked Moment


Dinner at Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi (Jul)

Even if he wasn’t around, I was excited to be there.  Totally am infatuated with this celebrity chef of Travel and Living’s World Asia Café series.  And the food did not disappoint.  Maybe because I’m so infatuated. Hee Hee! Expensive but superb.  Sorry but no photos of the food and the place except from across the street.  It was a treat from DBF to cap our Hanoi adventure and we agreed no cameras, besides the place was too dark to get even one decent photo.

Great Amusement


Watching the traffic of Hanoi at the Old Quarter (Jul)

We spent hours atop a restaurant sipping beer, relaxing and watching the traffic below with amazement.  The chaos of Vietnam traffic just amused us no end.  Watch and be amused.

The Best Reunion Ever


A San Francisco get-together with my high school buddies (Aug)… some I haven’t seen in 26 years.  It was a trip down memory lane but more importantly, it was literally a food trip as well.  Our friend and classmate, JT, now a chef cooked a superb dinner for us!  They’re actually planning another one this year… a US trip 2 years in a row is out of my budget if I want to explore other new places as well, so boohoo for me.

A Cove Truly Breathtaking


Anawangin Cove (Sep)

This could pass as my runner-up for the Most Miserable Climb too.  I am a clumsy person and more often than not, I fall and hurt myself.  So during the trek I was already asking “why do I do this to myself”? when I banged my knee in the course of what I thought was an easy trek. I’ve seen beautiful pixes, read and heard so much about this “not so secret” place and finally am hours away from it. Thrilled and excited as I started the 7.3 km trek to Anawangin Cove, I was 3rd to arrive at the saddle (which had an awesome view of the cove, by the way). Not bad, if I may brag… Many months of lifting, walking on a machine (that goes nowhere), puffing and pushing is finally paying off.  THEN… without warning, I slipped and fell about 30 minutes through our descent, all because I was not paying attention to the trail. It was agony from then on. Let’s just say that I trudged downhill, passing rocky streams for another 2+ hours before I reached the camp… From 3rd to last! Thirsty, tired and in pain but dampen my spirits it did not as it was indeed so BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Picture this, Agojo (imagine pine trees as it looked so much like it) forest on the beach with a meandering fresh water stream that flows out to the sea. And that is why I keep doing this to myself.

An Adrenalin-filled Birthday Weekend


Rafting the Chico (Oct)

Been doing this for almost a decade but never on my birthday.  So that’s new.  If you’ve never tried this, you should!  You will experience one heck of a weekend, a totally worked out upper body, and the thrill of a lifetime.  Contact Anton Carag of AEPI for bookings.

An Incredible Underwater Experience


Mantas and Sharks up close in Yap (Nov)

Amazing… is all I can say.  An experience of a lifetime.  Read more about it here.

WS# 2: Pine Cones



Never fails to remind me of the mountains that I love so much.  Took this shot at Lemon Pie House in Sagada 2 weeks ago, the pine cones aptly displayed on the window casement.  Simple yet artistic eh?

Credits:  JSprague frame

A New Year Away from it All

Wish you stayed away from the noise and smoke of Manila during the New Year?  You did?  I did.  The clean, crisp air, cold weather, beautiful pine trees, delicious yoghurt of Sagada was enough to convince my friends to meet me in Baguio after their climb.  Their climb was a 3-day hike up the summit of Mt. Ugo, which I (sadly) couldn’t join because my family has this annual vacation that’s usually planned around the Christmas break.  This year we decided on Ubud in Bali so that’s interesting enough for me not to be too envious, right?  But after seeing their photos, I’m now officially envious.  ANYWAY, when I heard of their plans, I suggested New Years in Sagada.

And so, on the evening of the 30th, straight from the airport, I went home only to change backpacks and off I was to Baguio.  We took the 6 o’clock bus the next morning and arrived in Sagada by noon in time for lunch at my favorite Yoghurt House.  This cozy hole in a wall is one reason why I never tire of Sagada.  This was where I fell in love with anything with yoghurt.  Not always available but if they have it, their Yoghurt with Bananas, Strawberry preserves and Granola is a definite “must try”!  But even without the preserve (which is more often than not), it still comes highly recommended.


New Year’s eve dinner may not be as much of a hit as lunch was but the ambience made up for it.  Nothing like having dinner at a cozy log cabin complete with a fireplace, with food all you can eat, and very hospitable hosts and staffs.  It’s like being a part of one, big, happy inner circle.  New Year’s eve buffet dinner at the Log Cabin (always prepared by Chef Philip Aklay – a French guy who had made Sagada his home) had become a tradition to the Sagada regulars.  The food sounded better than it tasted, unfortunately.  Too experimental for me.  The salad and the chicken were hits though.  My friend actually preferred this year’s dinner to last year’s.  So there you go… perhaps it gets better through the years.  Or perhaps I was expecting too much.  I’ve always had great meals at the Log Cabin so this blah experience was a surprise and a bit of a disappointment.



Note that the disappointment was from the New Year’s Eve dinner.  We went back for an a la cart dinner prepared by the owner Dave (never got his last name) and everything was superb.  You shouldn’t leave Sagada without having tried their Pork Tenderloin.


With all the walking my friends did at Mt. Ugo (3 DAYS!!!), the last thing they wanted to do was walk.  So I willingly and happily contented myself to stay in town, continue pigging out and finish the book I started (which I actually did).  But whaddyaknow!  We bumped into a friend at Yoghurt House who brought his 4×4.  He invited us to Besao.  Never been there so trying not to sound too eager… I said YES!  And so we went to Besao, originally to find the world-renowned stone calendar but it was still a long way off so we scrapped the idea and just took a look at St. Benedict’s Church.  A charming little church that looks very similar to St. Mary’s of Sagada.  Besao is the darling town after Sagada, which they say has beautiful sunsets.  We couldn’t stay to validate the claim as we had dinner reservations that night (at the Log Cabin).



On our way back we passed by Lake Danum to take photos of the normally calm lake.  When the water is still, the reflection of the sky vividly captured in still water makes a really good photograph.  But it was not so that day.  The water was rippling from very strong winds.


I swear, those were one of the coldest days I’ve ever experienced in Sagada, aggravated by strong winds.  It was so cold that I had to buy knitted gloves to keep my hands from freezing.  We were walking around in fleece, windbreakers, bonnets and gloves at high noon!  Really!  Between the 4 of us (and a little help from others), we downed 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of Limoncello in 3 days.  Hick!   😉


I must say, we started the year well.  Bumped into old friends, made new ones as well.  Revisited old favorites, and discovered new ones.  Hope yours was good too!

Getting there:

To Sagada via Baguio:

At the Dangwa station, take Lizardo Transit Bus.  First trip normally leaves by 6:30am; last trip at 1:00pm


Going back (Sagada – Baguio):

First bus arrives at the bus stop (there’s only one) at 5:30 – 6:00 am and leaves as soon as it is full.  Sits are first come first serve and since this bus originates from Besao, there may not have a lot left.  Bus arrives every hour thereafter, so if you miss this one, you can take the next one.

Travel time: 6-7 hours

Bus Fare:  P 220 (one-way)

To Sagada via Banaue:

  • Auto Bus or Florida Bus Line has daily trips to Banaue, leaves Manila approximately around 10pm.

Travel time:  8-9 hours

Contact Details:

Auto Bus
Espana cornor Catalina,
Sampaloc, Manila
Phone:  735-8096

Bus fare:       P 460

Florida Bus Line

Sampaloc, Manila
Phones:  743-3809 / 731-5358 / 493-3667

Bus fare: P 450

  • In Banaue, take a short tricycle ride from the bus stop to the town proper where you can find (Immanuel Bus Liners) buses to Bontoc.

Travel Time:  1-1/2 hours

Bus fare:  P 100

  • In Bontoc, get on jeepneys to Sagada from the Municipal Hall.  The bus stops very near the Hall so you won’t have to walk far.

Travel time:  45 minutes to 1 hour

Jeepney fare:  P 35

Sagada to Banaue:

  • Do everything in reverse.

Manila – Bontoc – Sagada Route

  • Another option is to take Cable Tours which ends in Bontoc, saves having to transfer buses in Banaue however, their buses are limited (I heard) and you may end up losing a day (if the bus conks out or something).

Travel time:  12 hours

Contact details:

Cable Tours
E Rodriguez QC, near Trinity College
Phone:  074-602-1068
Cell:       0918-521-6790

Bus fare:  P 600

Credits:  frames by Joyful Heart Designs, from the Plain Jane Kit

Hello 2009!


How did you spend the extra-long break?  I spent it up in the mountains… two, in fact.  After Christmas, my family and I flew to Denpasar and spent 5 relaxing days in a wonderful resort in Ubud, Bali.  As soon as I landed in Manila, I was on my way to Baguio to spend a quiet New Year in Sagada with good friends.  Both locations I return again and again for their food, so I indulged in good eating this season (as always).   😉 Overindulgence aside, I also found time to finally make a dent on the pile of books on my shelf, waiting to be read.


Despite the gloomy forecast, I can’t wait to get started.  I’ve already got a growing list of plans for the year.  Four exciting places I want to explore within the 1st half of the year. Learn one sport (starting this month) and master it (in a year or two, I hope).  Know Photoshop inside out.  Take more photos… and the list goes on.  But before all these, it’s back to the gym tomorrow to shed off those extra pounds!   😛

Seriously though, I am thankful and grateful to the almighty God for a wonderful 2008. Hope the blessing continues with the same grace and faithfulness He has bestowed through the years.

A blessed New Year to all!  More on Bali and Sagada in the next few days.




Credits:  Alpha: Sharejoy- blue alpha puffy stickers; JSprague Festa Mini Kit – Orange Paper

Banaue comes to mind when rice terraces are concerned.  True.  It is not famous for nothing.  And The Viewpoint, after weaving through a host of souvenir shops, has a magnificent view of it.  But Batad is for the more intrepid traveler, more off the beaten path, so trekked to Batad we did one Halloween weekend and we discovered a marvelous view of more pristine terraces.  An amphitheater, in fact, was what greeted us as we neared the village.  Quite dramatic, if I may say so.

The village, 4 years ago, still had no electricity and is mostly made up of traditional Ifugao houses, most if not all would have a view of the terraces.  A 40-minute hike down the terraces will lead you to Tappia Falls — an impressive falls and taking a dip means braving the icy-cold water.  So, you think I braved it?  Umm…   🙂

Touted as the backpacker’s mecca, getting to Batad requires trekking (as there is no other way to get there) so tourists aren’t as plenty as there are in Banaue.  My kind of place.  A place where you can get lost in the midst of tranquil beauty and isolation, and this makes the trek worth it.

Batad is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site in Danger since 2001.

Getting there:

Take a jeep from Banaue to the Batad junction, hike up to the saddle and from there, it’s a 40-minute hike down to the village.  Alternatively, you can now hire a jeep that will take you up to the saddle.