Glamping in Dinadiawan Beach

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Glamping or glamorous camping has indeed caught the travel scene by storm — from Batangas to Tagaytay and Bataan to Zambales. Glam camps are becoming more and more popular, especially to weekend travelers, as they come already with a pre-pitched tent that feature airbeds or foam/cushion mattresses (with beddings) and basic amenities to make your camping more comfortable, eliminating the hassle of packing heavy camping gear.

Although a relative newcomer in the glamping universe, Sand and Stars Beach Camp — nestled in the fine-sand beach of Dinadiawan in Dipaculao — has caught the interest of many because of its close proximity to Baler, one of the country’s prime surfing destination. It offers various-sized glamping tents that can accommodate from four (Vega, Mars, Sirius, Rigel, Beta) to eight people (Supernova). Each glam tent comes with foam mattresses with beddings, a rechargeable fan and lamp, sockets for charging your gadgets, as well as a spacious “anteroom”, complete with throw pillows and a small table.

A couple of communal T&B are also available.

Published check in time is 0100PM and check out is 1100AM; however, depending on the availability of accommodations and volume of guests, management may allow early check in or late check out.

For rates and availability of rooms/tents, visit Sand and Stars Online Booking. For other inquiries, check out their FB page.

Suggested itinerary for a 3D/2N trip

Day 0
1200MN: Depart for Baler, Aurora via JoyBus*

Day 1
0500AM: ETA Baler
0630AM: Depart for Dinadiawan via D’Liner Bus**
0900AM: ETA Sand and Stars Beach Camp
1000AM: Buy supplies at Dinadiawan Market
0100PM: Check in / Free time

Day 2
You can opt to explore “Dinadiawan” Falls and Pamwasan Cove

Day 3
1000AM: Check out / Depart for Baler***
1200NN: ETA Baler
0100PM: Depart for Manila

TRAVEL NOTES
*   JoyBus is highly recommended for its comfort and prompt arrival in Baler, the jumpoff point to Dinadiawan. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time. You can book online at iWantSeats Online Booking. Fare is P730 per pax, which includes snacks onboard. Travel time is 5hrs.

DSC_7973**   D’Liner Bus (at Baler Bus Terminal, near the public market and a short walk from Genesis/Joy Bus Terminal) has two trips in the morning (6AM and 9AM) and one trip in the afternoon bound for Casiguran, which passes by Dinadiawan. Just tell the conductor that you’re getting off at Sand and Stars Beach Camp. Fare is P85 per pax. Travel time is 1.5hrs to 2 hrs. Several vans also ply the same route at P200 per pax.

***   You may opt to check out early if you want to catch the 0900AM D’Liner Bus to Baler. If not, you can take the shuttle provided by the resort. Make sure that you inform Ate Merly, the person in charge of the resort, the night before departure. Fare is P200 per pax. The last trip for both Genesis and JoyBus is 0330PM.

Dinadiawan Beach: Baler’s Quieter Neighbor

After a short hiatus from traveling, I am finally able to return with a weekender to Dinadiawan Beach in the town of Dipaculao, Aurora.

A little over an hour from Baler, it’s more popular neighbor, Dinadiawan is quieter, more relaxing — an ideal place to just chill out and destress.

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The crescent-shaped Dinadiawan Beach boasts of fine, “white” sand and one of the best sunrise I have ever seen… and with your back on the ocean, you can embrace the lush greenery of the mighty Sierra Madre!

Things to do

20170626_081809_1Aside from sitting on your butt downing your favorite beer or coffee (like I did) or suspended on a hammock, dreaming (like I did, too) or soaking the sun and sea (like EVERYONE else did!), you can hire a boat to take you to Pamwasan Cove.

Personally, I liked the water here, as it’s a whole lot clearer, more refreshing and, unlike the waters in Dinadiawan Beach, does not have that “fishy” smell. There are several spots where you can snorkel.

The beach is a little too “stony” and the seafloor a bit “grassy”, though. And during low tides, the locals gather here to pick up mollusks and seaweeds.

On a very hot day, Pamwasan Cove can be very dry and exhausting. Bring lotsa water.

Dinadiawan+Falls,+Aurora+DSC_1619+011_1You may also ride a tricycle and take a dip in the cool waters of “Sister” Falls… or “Daughter” Falls or “Dinadiawan” Falls or “Baby” Falls — the name varies, depending on who you ask. The falls is just a 5-minute easy trek from the highway. I was told that the LGU or baranggay there usually collects a minimal entrance fee of P50, but since I was just “solo” and the trike driver who accompanied me happened to be a ka-tropa, the fee was “waived”. I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too preoccupied enjoying the cool waters.

The kids who happened to be playing nearby “berated” me for not going there during the summer months.

“Kuya, sana nung summer kayo pumunta. Nakita nyo sana yung madaming mga paru-paro na kulay puti.”

“Kuya, sa summer ka pumunta para hindi maputik.”

“Kuya, balik ka sa summer.”

Et cetera…

On lazy afternoons, you can hook up with other guests, and some “village boys”, for a friendly game of beach volleyball (or wacky dance like the guy in the blue board short is doing 😀). I’m not much of a ball player but a flower sniffer, so I just contended myself to just being a passive participant and took these.

Where to stay

To tell you the truth, if not for this:

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I wouldn’t have given this place much thought, as I’ve been to much better beaches.

More on Sand and Stars and a suggested itinerary on my next post.

Marooned: A Calayan Experience

When people talk about a trip to Calayan Island, the topic of being stranded there for days never fails to creep into every conversation. Well, aside from the occasional sightings of whales and dolphins by some few — which has become the envy of many and one of several reasons why people still want to make the trip despite the “odds”, including myself.

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When the boat that will take you home decides to make a “no show”.

Indeed, the prospect of getting marooned on the island municipality of Calayan is very high. While the main cause of “lampitaw” trip cancellations is bad weather, erratic boat schedules come in close second. To date, there are about five or six passenger boats servicing the island — the M/B Rosario and M/B Lance (from Aparri) and the M/B Lagadan 1, 2 and 3 (from Claveria) — each with a capacity of about 30-60 passengers. Smaller fishing boats doubling as cargo/passenger transport also ply the route.

Stranded in Calayan: A deconstruction

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First off, forget doing a Tom Hanks when you find yourself on an “extended stay” on this island. It is not going to be a Castaway story nor a Survivor game. In fact, one of the most inimitable place to be stranded in is this quiet town of Calayan — its rolling hills, fine-sand beaches, clean crisp air and the slow, quiet pace of everyday life seem to drown all memories of metropolitan Manila, or whichever city you are from.

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One of several neighborhood grocery  stores in the poblacion.

The town of Calayan is a vibrant municipality where commerce is very much alive. There are small restaurants (check out San Jose Inn) and eateries or carinderias in and around the poblacion or Centro.

Potable water is also not a problem. Small sari-sari stores and neighborhood groceries line the main street, selling bottled water and other beverages, as well as canned goods and other food supplies.

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Buying a “portion” of this freshly caught talakitok from a fisherman.

Sadly, there is no public market here (not yet, anyway); however, you can get fresh fish and other seafood directly from the fishermen. You just have to wake up early in the morning to catch them offloading their “loot” after a night of fishing.

While it is true that there are no ATMs in town, it shouldn’t be a cause for panic, as there are several pera padala outlets where you can have some funds sent your way.

And if and when you do find yourself without a ride home on your supposed departure date after you have seen the sights, don’t fret. Calayan still has more to offer.

You can:

play hoops with the local Mythical 5 (er, 3?);

cruise around town on a kuliglig;

 or just watch the sun set (I’ll never get tired of this one).

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So, what am I tryna say here?

Don’t be hindered by the possibility “of being stranded” — plan that Calayan trip already! Ooooops… since “plan” has been mentioned, do plan your trip within the months of April, May, June*, July*, August* and, if you’re lucky,  even September*, which is usually the monsoon break. In fact, why not go in August and join in the town festivities during the annual fiesta and be among the spectators of the Comedia, Calayan’s answer to Marinduque’s Pugutan

… you might also be among the fortunate ones to experience what we did: rappelling down Tapwaken Cove!

Thanks to Daryl Comagon for facilitating this activity and our sincerest gratitude to Mayor Al Llopis for allowing us to scale down Tapwaken Cove.

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The T’Embang Gang (from R-L): Harry, Daryl, Angel, Mayor Al, Eric, Lex and me.

 

 

——–
* According to most locals we’ve asked, the weather in Calayan is generally fine during these months, except when there’s a brewing storm somewhere in the country, which makes the waves go berserk (like the ones we’ve encountered during our trip).

Captivating Calayan

A trip to Calayan IS NOT for the weekend vacationer nor it is for the weakened traveler. Blame it on the rain, they say. Well, partly true. Foul weather is the main reason why shuttling of passengers and goods sometimes grinds to an indefinite halt; however, even on hot summer days, chances of getting stranded for days to and from the island is VERY HIGH due to the erratic schedule of passenger boats leaving the ports of Claveria or Aparri.

I have never really fully appreciated the beauty of Calayan Island until recently. In my mind, and looking at some photos in various blogs, I kinda prematurely concluded that yeah, I’ve seen better beaches and more breathtaking viewpoints. For me, it is just a destination that needs to be ticked off my bucket list.

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Caniwara, Sibang and Cababaan coves as viewed atop Nagudungan hill.

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…”

These few words from Louis Armstrong (and a sigh of relief, grateful to be alive) reverberated in my ears the second Calayan appeared on the horizon. Indeed, Calayan is a beauty to behold.

Finally on terra firma, feeling the soft sands of the beach made me forget for a minute the arduous journey we had to endure — the giant waves and torrential rains, interspersed with howling winds that sent chills down our spines.

Time to chew in the scenery…

How to get there

Manila to Claveria or Aparri

  1. Direct route via Florida Transport Inc in Sampaloc (near Lacson St.) or in Cubao (Kamias Rd.) — Fare: @P750.00; Travel time: about 14 hours.
  2. Laoag-bound bus from either Sampaloc or Cubao bus terminals — Sleeper bus: @P850 / 2×2 Aircon bus: @P600; Travel time: about 12 hours. Then, either van (the terminal is near PLDT Laoag, near Jollibee Bacarra Road; fare is P150 per pax) or wait for Claveria-bound buses.
  3. Via Aparri (details to follow).

Claveria/Aparri to Calayan Centro

  1. Via lampitaw or motorized banca — Fare: P500; Travel time: 4 to 5 hours on a good day or almost forever on bad weather.
  2. Depending on the weather and the volume of goods/passengers, there is only one trip (supposedly) per day.

Where to stay

I highly recommend San Jose Inn along Maddela Street, where you can have semi-buffet meals for only P100 per pax! The owner, Ms Connie Agudo <+639075447692>, is very accommodating.

If you want some beachfront lodging, away from the hustle-and-bustle of the poblacion, you may want to try out:

  1. Villa Innocencia (+639496001931)
  2. Apollo Beach Resort (+639478939619)

Onok Island: Nature’s gift to man

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If you are the techie-savvy, GPS-toting traveler, you won’t find “Onok” on the map; instead, you’ll find “Roughton Island”.

That is because Roughton Island is the “official name” of Onok, the latter being a local nickname for this wonderful piece of real estate right in the middle of nowhere.

Fronting the main beach of Onok island is a massive reef, rife with a variety of soft and colorful corals that extend towards a sheer drop of about 80 feet, where large pelagic fish swim about — on occasion, you’ll be lucky to encounter a school of yellow fins! The surroundings of this small island is also home to “taklobos” or giant sea clams, and of course, sea turtles! Never have I seen sea turtles — oblivious to our presence — in such quantity!

If I were to go back to Balabac, this is where I would stay longer.

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P.S.

Thank you SB Toto for the hospitality and these mouth-watering dishes!

Notes:
  • The best time to visit Onok and the other islands in the municipality of Balabac is during the summer months of March, April and May, as the waters in and around the islands can be treacherous and rough.
  • Prior arrangements should be made before visiting some islands, particularly Punta Sibaring in Bugsuk Island and Onok Island.
  • Balabac is accessible via 4-hour motorized boat ride from Rio Tuba. There are commuter vans and buses plying the Puerto Prinsesa-Rio Tuba route, which is a 5-hour travel time.
  • A PhP5,000 fee is now collected from each visitor to Onok. This covers the entrance fee, boat transfers from and to  Balabac proper, and meals while on the island. NOTE: There are many boat operators offering Onok trips; however, only a select few are allowed to bring in guests. You may contact SB Toto Astami, Onok administrator, for access to the island and/or to verify if the boatman you hired has permission to enter Onok.
  • IMPORTANT: Waterproof your bags.
  • For a hassle-free Balabac experience, contact +63998 944 7242.

In the Isle of the Giants

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I had the chance to revisit this wonderful piece of heaven in Carles, Iloilo. The last time I was here was about two months after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the place, and much have already changed! Bancal port is now bustling with passenger boats ferrying people to and from Isla Gigantes. The “tangke” is cleaner and safer and the climb to the “view deck” in Cabugao Gamay is a lot more safer with the ladders and railings. Scallops and wasay-wasay are still in abundance and the crabs get yummier and yummier!

IMPORTANT: Tourists, especially those arriving via tour boats from Estancia, are now required to register at the Carles Tourism Office, where they will be given “access pass” to the Tangke hidden lagoon after payment of P70 per pax environmental fee.

How to get there:

There are several entry points to Isla de Gigantes, but I would rather you take the route that will lead you to Bancal Port in the town of Carles; Isla Gigantes being a part of Carles.

From Iloilo City airport
  • Make use of the airport shuttles/vans/FX stationed just outside the departure area to take you to SM City Iloilo. From there, take a cab to the Ceres Grand Terminal (Ceres buses now have their own terminal), if you prefer taking the bus or to Tagbak Central Terminal, if you’re taking the van. Just make sure you are on the Carles-bound trip, which will take you directly to Bancal Port. [I’m not sure about the schedule of vans in Tagbak, but Ceres buses leave as early as 3AM]. Alternatively, you can just ask the locals what passenger jeep will take you to the Ceres Grand Terminal or Tagbak Central Terminal (Leganes-bound and Jaro-CPU jeeps are some options).
  • Once in Bancal Port, make sure you register at the Tourism Office before you board any of the passenger boats that will take you to Isla Gigantes.

Where to stay:

Several accommodation options are available. We stayed at Dela Vega Cottages (see photos for their contact details) for P350/pax/night in an A/C room for 6. The resort also offers meal packages (starts at P200 per pax) that will surely satisfy your cravings for seafood.

Batanes: Home of the Ivatans

Batanes is a chain of small islands in the northernmost point of the Philippines. Of these islands, only three are inhabited: Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. These three (3) islands comprise six (6) municipalities collectively known as BISUMI: Basco (the capital), Itbayat, Sabtang, Uyugan, Mahatao and Ivana. Although described as having no real ports, the island chains of Batanes boast small beaches and coves which serve as anchorage for the locals’ small boats.

Inhabiting Batanes are the Ivatans, their name derived from the language they speak: Chirin nu Ibatan or simply Ivatan, an Austronesian language spoken exclusively in the Batanes Islands which is characterized by the dominant use of the letter “v”, as in valuga, vakul and vanuwa.

Also unique to their culture is their limestone houses patterned after the Spaniards and adapted to stand the onslaughts of the notorious Batanes typhoons. Ivatan stone houses — called vernacular houses — are typically windowless cube structures with walls as thick as one meter with thatched roof made of cogon grass.

Where to go in Batanes

Tour destinations in Batanes are subdivided into four (4) clusters:

  • North Batan Island (Basco)
    • Mt. Carmel Chapel
    • Radar Tukon
    • Idjang Viewpoint
    • Fundacion Pacita
    • Japanese Tunnel
    • Valugan Boulder Beach
    • Vayang Rolling Hills
    • Basco Lighthouse in Naidi Hills
    • Sto. Domingo Church
  • South Batan Island (Mahatao, Ivana and Uyugan)
    • Chawa Viewdeck
    • Mahatao Pier
    • San Jose Borromeo Church
    • Diura (Fishing Village)
    • Fountain of Youth
    • Racuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country)
    • Imnajbu Point
    • Old Naval Base
    • Alapad Rock
    • Song Song Ruins
    • San Jose de Ivana Church
    • Honesty Coffee Shop
    • Famous House of Dakay
  • Sabtang Island
    • San Vicenter Ferer Church
    • Savidug Village and Savidug Idjang Rock Fortress
    • Sabtang Vernacular Houses
    • Sabtang Lighthouse
    • Limestone production
    • Chamantad-Tinyan Viewpoint
    • Chavayan Village
    • Nakabuang (Morong) Beach and Ahao Arch
    • Vuhus Island
  • Itbayat Island
    • Chinapoliran Port
    • Sta. Maria Immaculada (Itbayat) Church
    • Lake Kavaywan
    • Mt. Karoboban Viewpoint
    • Torongan Hills and Cave
    • Paganaman Port and Lagoon
    • Rapang Cliffs and Stone Bell
    • Kaxobcan Beach
    • Mt. Riposed
    • Nahili Votox Burial Site
    • Komayasakas Cave and Water Source
    • Manoyok Sinkhole
    • Sarokan, Pevangan and Do’tboran Caves
    • Agosan Rocks
    • Port Mauyen
    • Island hopping (when weather permits):
      • Siayan
      • Dinem
      • Ditarem
      • Yami (Mavolis)

Optional activities

Mt. Iraya Hike (North Batan)
Duration: 3hrs to 4 hrs
Highlights: At 1,900ft ASL, Mt Iraya offers a stunning view of Basco and a wide array of endemic flora and fauna.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1000/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1500/pax for 2 pax

Mt. Matarem Hike (South Batan)
Duration: 1.5hrs to 2hrs
Highlights: An extinct volcano, Mt. Matarem spans the municipalities of Mahatao, Uyugan and Ivana. At the summit, you’ll have a commanding view of Sabtang.
Rates/Fees:
PHP1300/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1800/pax for 2 pax

Hiking/Walking Tour
Duration: 4hrs to 6hrs
Highlights: Hike along the Basco-Mahatao Trail, stopping by Racuh-a-idi Spring of Youth in Diura Fishing Village for a cold, refreshing dip. Then continue on to the radar station, Fundacion Pacita and the wind turbines
Rates/Fees:
PHP800/pax for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1200/pax for 2 pax

SCUBA Diving
Duration: 2hrs to 3hrs, depending on the dive location and number of dives
Highlights: Explore the rich marine life of Sabtang: Pavona coral fields, Trevallies Lair, Canyons, etc.
Rates/Fees:
PHP3000/pax for a single dive, or
PHP2500/pax for 2 dives or more

Fishing/Boating
Duration: Minimum of 1hr
Highlights: Experience “mataw” fishing with local anglers using nylon line and hook.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax/hr for 4 pax and more, or
PHP1000/pax/hr for 2 pax

ATV Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: Explore Batan at your own pace.
Rates/Fees:
PHP500/pax for halfday, or
PHP1000/pax for whole day

Bicycle (Motorbike) Touring
Duration: up to whole day
Highlights: A visit to Batanes is not complete without trying out one of its iconic symbols, the bicycle. Tour Batan Island on two wheels, either self-powered or motorized. Travel from the heart of Basco to the southernmost parts of Batan.
Rates/Fees:
Bicycle: PHP100/pax/hr
Motorbike: PHP250/pax/hr

Contacts:

BISUMI Tours and Services
Ryan Lara Cardona <+63915.803.4582>
bisumitours@gmail.com

MarFel Lodge
<+63908.893.1475>
<+63920.976.4966>
<+63917.857.4493>
<+63917.883.3249>
marfellodge@gmail.com
http://marfellodgebatanes.com

Dive Batanes
Chico Domingo <+63939.935.1950>

Ivatan ATV Rentals
<+63998.551.9656>

Basco TODA
<+63929.703.8404>

Casa Napoli Pizza
<+63999.990.7553>

Rapang (Itbayat) Guide
Jose Valiente <+63949.620.0184>

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