AIM Feature: Rachel

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“After a quarter life crisis, I decided to take MBA (because that’s why you take MBA, right?). After some eight weeks of GMAT self-study and receiving the AIM letter of admissions shortly after, I moved to Makati. It was a whirlwind for me, everything happened too fast.

At first, I felt like a bit of an oddball. The whole corporate culture was something entirely different to me. A travel writer by profession & fine arts by training, I grew up in an island with no Pt of time. My social circle made up of artists, surfers and bohemians. Imagine the amount of adjustment I endured when moving to Makati and going to business school.

My first math encounter since high school algebra was when I did my GMAT preps. So everything was completely new to me. There was a lot of times when I completely felt stumped. I would enviously look at my classmates and wonder how they breeze through LOB and Finance while every time I go through the readings, I cry on the inside. Rather than feeling bad for myself, I just tried harder. Remember, everyone starts off as a beginner. Every pro-surfer would look like an idiot when they first got on the board.

Starting off a little behind everyone else can be discouraging.Understandable-most of us grew up where success, or being the best, is celebrated. We get brownie points from our parents when we excel. Schools reward the top students in academic achievement. The problem with this mentality is it creates an illogical and immense fear in failure.

The biggest victims are the overachievers – they tend to be crippled with failure. Hence they tend to stick to their expertise and do not broaden their skill because of their anxiety on failure. “I can not dance” or “I’m bad at languages” or “I have no sense of balance”; But more of the fear of failing at it. It’s easier for them to say ‘That’s impossible,’ rather than ‘That’s hard’.

Willful advice for parents and future parents: rather than praising achievements, we should raise a kid who will not give up.

My arts background is not a crutch-everyone has to start a little bit. My learning curve may be much longer than my classmates’, but I think my learning experience was much more satisfying. When you finally ‘get’ what your classmates were talking about two sessions ago, nothing felt more rewarding.

Learn to accept that failure is part of life. Learn to laugh at yourself-the worth of wisdom from that failure is much more valuable.”

Postcard Eats: GIBBS’ Hot Wings and What’s New

ewGibbs’ Hot Wings is one of Cebu’s most famous hole-in-the-wall new restaurants and their hot wings are comfort food of choice to many Cebuanos. Reputed for being the best wings in town, I adore the unique flavors of hot wings and their careful selection of craft beers. Coy sure knows his beers.

gibbs angel wings
My personal favorite–the Angel Wings!
gibbs hot wings beers
Gibbs Hot Wings Beers. They also carry a good selection of local craft beers by Cebruery!

I personally love their Angel Wings (affectionately called ‘Carbonara Wings’) because I can’t handle my spice as much as some people could. If you love your spicy, you can choose the spiciness level from 1 to 5.

They started in a small and humble manner. The owner, Coy Oliva, used to drink with friends at home and his wife’s hot wings was the crew’s pulutan of choice. The hot wings were a hit: his friends requested for them all the time, and eventually started ordering them to bring to their family and friends. One friend suggested to them that they should sell their hot wings.

Gibbs’ started as a small-hole-in-the-wall in the extra space of the owner’s house. The hot wings were such a big hit, that within months the owners opened their second shop in Streetscape, Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.

So, What’s New with Gibbs’?

On our media launch last week, we were the first to know the many exciting news for Gibbs’ Hot Wings. First, introducing their newest on the menu: Their Cajun Hot Wings. It had just the right amount of spicy and smoky flavor.

gibbs hot wings cajun

Second, Gibbs’ Hot Wings has partnered with Zomato for delivery orders. You can get your hot wings fix conveniently at the comforts of your home by just ordering via the Zomato app.

Lastly, Gibbs’ has announced that they will be opening their second branch at Robinsons Galleria Cebu, set to open later this year. A very interesting year ahead for Gibbs’!

GIBBS’ Weekly Events and Promos

Gibbs’ holds interesting weekly events, giving you more reasons to visit:

  • Mayday Sundays – Come in groups of at least 5 and for a minimum orders of P1000, to get 10% off.
  • Wing It Wednesdays – Bring your bff, wingman or winggirl, barkada, to get one free order of fries!
  • Acoustic Wednesdays – Listen to the cool tunes by Acoustic Duo Anton & Glynis from 8pm to 10.30pm
  • Thirsty Thursdays – Unlimited Coolers! Order any pitcher of our house blend coolers to avail of bottomless drinks.

You can check their FB page for more info on event and promo updates.

DISCLAIMER: Some photos by the owner and the Gibbs’ official FB page

GIBBS’ Hot Wings is open for lunch from Tuesdays to Sundays at 11am to 2pm and open for dinner daily from 5:30pm to 12:00am. GIBBS’ Hot Wings is located at Streetscape Mall, Maria Luisa Rd, Banilad, Cebu City. Contact number 349-2103 / 09226424888. Check their FB Page here and their official website at http://www.gibbshotwings.com.

Suggested Itinerary: 4 days in Siargao, Philippines

Siargao is just one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines, but it is quite well-known around the world for one thing: surfing.

siargao-itinerary-philippines.jpg

Siargao has now become synonymous to surfing, attracting an international crowd of surfers during surfing season to experience the island’s acclaimed large, smooth and hollow-tubed waves. Siargao is best known as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, and the 9th Best Surfing Spot in the World (CNN).

Don’t surf? It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the island! If you want to learn surfing, the island offers the best spots with beginner waves. If you’re not into the surfing scene at all, there’s tons of activities you can do aside from the main event. Read my guide on Siargao for Non-Surfers and Best Spots to Eat in Siargao.

The 4-day itinerary I drafted is pretty lax, but what’s there to hurry? This is the island life! If you want more activities, you can always pump up your days with more surf lessons, and some.

boardwalk surfing siargao mindanao

First of all–When to go and How to get there?

When is the best time to go? There are big waves in Siargao all year round, but on months August through November marks the surfing season when the international surfing competitions are held. The island can get pretty busy during these times with surfers from around the world coming in to experience Siargao’s famous 7 ft. waves.

There are two ways to get to Siargao: by air or by sea. Cebu Pacific offers once-daily flights to Siargao from Cebu. Be wary though, as I have heard that a lot of these flights get cancelled because of the unpredictable weather. You can also get to Siargao via bangka (small boat) from Surigao.

Day 1: Relax, Explore the Island

Take it easy on the first day if you will.

siargao relax
Relax! Tomorrow is another day in paradise.

Hire a motorbike or bicycle and explore the island itself. I read that tarsiers are also present here, and unlike Bohol, these small primates still roam free in Siargao forests.There’s so much more to discover–General Luna is just one municipality! In Del Carmen, Siargao is home to the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao, where saltwater crocodiles thrive.

philippines siargao beaches

Day 2: Surf, Boardwalk, Cloud 9

Let’s get down to business–let’s learn to surf! Where are good places to surf?

Once again, Siargao is one of the best places to learn to surf. gThere are around a dozen other surf breaks in the island, accommodating to all difficulty levels. The most famous one, of course is Cloud 9. The site of international surfing competitions, but for advanced skill surfers only. Right beside Cloud 9 is Quicksilver, with easier wave rides but can often get too crowded.

Other surfing areas include: Cemetery is located in an actual cemetery–I hear it is a bit of a journey to get there, but when you do, there won’t be any crowds at all. Daku has pretty strong waves and popular among intermediate surfers. One ride can get you around 200m closer to shore–so the current is strong and paddling back can take a bit of effort. You can get there by renting a small boat.

If you want to surf, please be mindful of ‘surf etiquette’–who gets to ride the waves first, etc., or you’re likely to get enemies in the ocean!

surfing ettiquette.jpg

If you don’t surf, you can just watch and admire the art form at the Boardwalk. You can also just chill, have coffee or drinks by the sea. We love taking a seat and just relax here–I could definitely be lazy here forever!

Oh–another fixture here is the very friendly Oscar the dog! If you see him, please give him a big hug for me!

Day 3: Island Hopping: Naked Island, Guyam Island, Daku Island

Go island hopping and check out Siargao’s three nearby islands: Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island. Depending on your negotiation skills, you can rent a boat to visit the three islands from P1,000 to P1,500.

Don’t get disappointed–Naked Island isn’t a spot for people to go nude sunbathing. Naked Island is called such because you would not find any trees or vegetation, just a stretch of fine white sand. Daku Island is, ‘dako’ or big, in terms of the other islands we visited. Daku even has its own barangay. (The ancestors didn’t seem to try being creative with naming their locale) We had our lunch in Daku Island before we went to our last stop, Guyam Island.

Day 4: Magpupungko Tidal Pool, Caving

From General Luna, it’s a 40 minute car ride to Magpupungko. Entrance is 50 per person.Magpupungko is named such from a unique rock formation in the area. The large boulder looks like it’s sitting on top of another flat rock. The beautiful pool only unveils itself during low tide.

There’s also a beach right next to the pool with massive waves that will wipeout any entity who dared swim in it! We saw a small boat get overturned when we were here–luckily, no one was hurt!

From General Luna, it’s a 40 minute car ride to Magpupungko. Entrance is 50 per person.

Optional: Sohoton Cave

If you have more time to waste in paradise, make a day to see Sohoton Cave.Sohoton is famous for its jellyfish sanctuary and enchanting caves. Sohoton is three hours away from Siargao though and is closer to Surigao del Norte, so we decided to reserve Sohoton for another future trip. Unfortunately I don’t have firsthand experience but I hear from friends this place is majestic.

It takes 2.5 hours to get to Sohoton from GL. It’s more expensive to get there, but you can get a boat rental for around Php4,000, depending again on how well you can negotiate.

Caleb and Rachel for Petit Bateau

Source: Where’s Caleb? Caleb and Rachel for Petit Bateau

Last year in 2015, Caleb and I got the opportunity to model for Ayala’s Style Origin Fashion Show held annually. Mother-and-son pair represented Petit Bateau, a French brand on premium kids wear.

Caleb was only 1.6 years old at the time, and was unaware of what was happening most of the time. He didn’t understand why the girls in the backstage cried when Daniel Padilla passed by. When we went out of the runway, he stared at the crowd like: ‘what the hell is going on?’ Midway through the walk, he just gave up and had me carry him. Haha.

It was a funny and good experience for us, and we learn that there are a lot of things beyond our control–especially when it comes to children. Other children in the backstage were already getting cranky and low energy while waiting for the show to start (it started 2 hours later than expected). Caleb and I didn’t have the luxury to come back home after the morning rehearsals and stayed at the back stage until 7pm, but I am amazed at how unfazed Caleb was all throughout.

See the events unfold in the video edited by dad Ejay Williams:

Siargao Guide for Non-Surfers

non-surfers

The act of riding waves on wooden boards has been recorded as a human activity for thousands of years. The first surfers were the ancient Pacific Islanders and Polynesians who fish for a living, and discovered that riding the waves was an efficient way to get to shore quickly.

One of the First Known Photographs of a Surfer, 1800s. Photo from: Bishop Museum Archive
One of the First Known Photographs of a Surfer, 1800s. Photo from: Bishop Museum ArchiveSurfing and Siargao

Eventually riding waves transformed from a daily activity to a favorite pastime. There have been written records about people riding waves, from Capt. James Cook to Mark Twain. We can only guess how and when the modern form surfing was established, but one day some madcap decided it was a good idea to stand in his board during a swell and see what happens. The rest was history.

Surfing is now a sport and lifestyle that has taken a life of its own. Surfers travel around the world to catch the ‘perfect wave’. This is how the story of Siargao happened. Twenty years ago, two pro-surfers came to the Philippines to catch the fabled waves on a tear-shaped island called ‘Siargao’. Now known as ‘Cloud 9’, Siargao is acclaimed for her large, smooth and hollow-tubed waves that bring an international crowd of surfers every year. Siargao is now known as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, and is the 9th Best Surfing Spot in the World (according to CNN).

But Wait! This Post is NOT for Surfers.

However, this post isn’t about surfing; I have no idea why I started my intro like that, but whatever. Of course, without surfing, Siargao wouldn’t be what it currently is now. Many surfers came for the waves, and fall in love with the island. Some never leave. The waves and the wonderful community is irresistible–making Siargao a little piece of paradise on Earth. I personally found the allure Siargao so seductive that I ended up booking another ticket to come back just a few days after I left!

In Siargao, surfing can be done all year round. There are different swells from different parts of the island, depending on the time of the year.

non-surfers

So What if I don’t surf?

Siargao is paradise for surfers— and non-surfers, too. If you don’t surf, there’s more to Siargao then just surfing. Of course, I would highly recommend that you make ‘learn to surf’ a top priority on your itinerary, but if it’s really not your thing, here are some activities you can do beyond surfing.

1. Magpupungko Tidal Pool

Magpupungko is named such from a unique rock formation in the area. The large boulder looks like it’s sitting on top of another flat rock. The beautiful pool only unveils itself during low tide.

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Be careful when you jump! The rocks are razor sharp!

siargao magpupungko

There’s also a beach right next to the pool with massive waves that will wipeout any entity who dared swim in it!

Photo by Chester Baldicantos. Yes, this really happened to John.
Photo by Chester Baldicantos. Yes, this really happened to John.

From General Luna, it’s a 40 minute car ride to Magpupungko. Entrance is 50 per person.

2. Island Hopping

Go island hopping and check out Siargao’s three nearby islands: Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island. Depending on your negotiation skills, you can rent a boat to visit the three islands from P1,000 to P1,500.

Naked Island is just what you would expect–naked. On this island you would not find any trees or vegetation, just a stretch of fine white sand. Daku Island is, ‘dako’ or big, in terms of the other islands we visited. Daku even has its own barangay. (The ancestors were very literal and not very creative with naming their locale) We had our lunch in Daku Island before we went to our last stop, Guyam Island.

If you have the time, you can also check Sohoton Lagoon. Sohoton is famous for its jellyfish sanctuary and enchanting caves. Sohoton is three hours away from Siargao though and is closer to Surigao del Norte, so we decided to reserve Sohoton for another future trip.

3. Food Trip!

Food is affordable and good in Siargao. General Luna has quite a few restaurants and cafes that are good, interesting and not cheesy. Locals like barbecue, and they have barbecue stalls even in their disco bars! You can get great comfort food at Pleasure Point Cafe, three-layered pizza at Aventino’s, sushi at Lux Siargao Sushi Bar, great coffee and view at Cafe Loka, barbecue at Mama’s, and more.

pleasure point
Food at Pleasure Point Cafe

Locals like barbecue, and they have barbecue stalls even at their disco bars! Siargao is not as touristy as Boracay, so you can’t find any big restaurant establishments here like fast food joints and international food chains. Heck, you can’t even find an ATM machine around GL!

Fresh seafood here abounds (it’s an island, duh). You can go spearfishing if that’s your thing and roast your catch, or if you’re more mainstream  just go to the local market and purchase their freshest catch and pay someone to cook it for you.

You can check out my blog post on some of Siargao’s Best Eats here.

4. Party

So you don’t surf–but you can at least hang out and party with fellow surfers and look the part! Surfers are among the most unpretentious bunch I know and will befriend just about anyone. Siargao parties here embody the vibe of the island–laid back and friendly. You can’t expect any EDM or hardcore parties here. They have great parties in Pagoda Beach Bar especially on Mondays (named appropriately ‘Monday Fundays’) so be sure not to miss that. Other local disco bars are Jungle Bar every Fridays and Stowaway Bar every Saturdays.

pagoda

Other bars around the island include Reggae Bar, Nine Bar, La Luna Surf Buddha Resort (they also have acoustic nights on Thursdays). There are quite a few places to chill and drink around Gen. Luna especially around Cloud 9.

5. Explore the Island!

Aside from surfing, there are plenty of water activities you can do in Siargao. You can go diving, snorkeling and paddle boarding.

SUP!

A fish out of water can find abundant activities on land, too. Hire a motorbike or bicycle and explore the island itself. I read that tarsiers are also present here, and unlike Bohol, these small primates still roam free in Siargao forests. Saltwater crocodiles exist in parts of Siargao — Del Carmen, Siargao is home to the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao.

There’s so much more to discover–General Luna is just one municipality! Fellow traveler and colleague Radel strongly insist I come back to Siargao and explore Siargao’s west and north side.

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Motorbike rentals are typically Php 500/day.

6. Caving

 

7. Relax

Relax! Don’t try to push in too many activities in one day. Tomorrow is another day in paradise. So yes, you deserve an afternoon’s rest in a hammock by the beach.

Relax! Tomorrow is another day in paradise.
Relax! Tomorrow is another day in paradise.
Kona is chillng like a German Shepherd boss.
Kona is chillng like a German Shepherd boss.

Postcard Eats: 10 Best of Siargao

 

10-best-siargaoI never knew ‘falling in love’ could occur outside of the desired sex, but that’s what happened when I came to Siargao. I fell in love with the island, the beaches, the food, the culture. Now I understood why a handful of my friends gave up city life to live here. I felt heartbreak when we had to leave; five days was not enough. One month won’t be either. Maybe I could live here with my son, I tinkered with the idea.

Siargao is (so far) my favorite island in the Philippines, and is considered as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines. Most of the tourist activity is centered in General Luna in Siargao, and there are plenty of gems in the area to dine, party, and do activities. If it’s your first time to visit the beautiful island, this blog will help you identify the must-sees:

  • Best Comfort Food
  • Best Coffee
  • Best Sushi
  • Best Pizza
  • Best Barbecue
  • Best Party
  • Best Surfer’s Hangout
  • Best Luxury Resort
  • Best Mid-Range Resort
  • Best Budget Resort

10-best-siargao

(Disclaimer, these are preferences coming from a local tourist/novice surfer and may not reflect the preference of the majority)

Getting around GL is not difficult, there are a lot of motorcycles who will take you anywhere for P20/head. It comes up to P25/head at night.

Siargao is still a small provincial town but starting to get more touristy every year. Currently, most establishments in General Luna only accept cash. You need to bring sufficient financial artillery because there is no ATM machine in the area, and are only accessible in Dapa, 30 minutes away from GL.

  • Best Comfort Food: Pleasure Point Cafe

pleasure point surf cafe siargao philippines

pleasure point

Pleasure Point is all about chill vibes and good conversations. We had breakfast here on our second day in the island, and our first taste of paradise. The cafe defines what Siargao is all about: life, surf and coffee–that’s all that matters.

Their menu perfectly complements the surfer’s lifestyle. They have lovely crepes, omelettes and other food that make perfect pairings with coffee or tea. We tried the French Toast (my personal favorite!), Sunny Side Up and Bacon Omelette (the boys’ favorite!), Parfait and Blueberry Cheesecake.

breakfast french toast pleasure point
French Toast
breakfast pleasure point siargao
Sunny Side Up and Bacon Crepe with Iced Coffee

If you’re feeling special for breakfast, try their Chia and Coconut Pudding with fruits–it’s divine.

chia pudding pleasure point cafe
Chia Pudding, Mangoes and Bananas

It’s the best place to unwind after riding the waves. They also have movie nights every Saturdays if you want to take it easy for the weekend.

  • Best Coffee: Cafe Loka

Cafe Loka is a charming little cafe located conveniently in Cloud 9. They offer healthy food, great coffee and fruit shakes. While waiting for your orders, one can jump in their giant trampoline (great for my overly hyper, slightly ADHD friends) or just lounge on the beach chairs and watch surfers catch waves (great for lazy bums like me).

boardwalk surfing siargao mindanao

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  • Best Sushi: Lux Siargao Sushi Bar

Technically, it is the only sushi restaurant in the island. But it is worth telling that it is the best sushi place I’ve tried in the whole Philippines! A Lithuanian sushi chef named Freeman heads the sushi bar, and he easily converted me to become a hardcore sushi lover (I was never really into raw fish before!) We burned most of our cash in here, eating sushi for dinner over sake and Cards Against Humanity.

Sushi Goodness! (Photo by Shari Quimbo
Sushi Goodness! (Photo by Shari Quimbo

It’s very affordable, too: P350/sushi set, which may sound like a lot when you’re in Siargao–but P350 is very cheap for the authentic sushi you get here. This is legit sushi that will give sushi bars in Cebu and Manila a run for their money.

I recommend you to get the Omakase Sushi (Chef’s Choice, in Japanese it means ‘I leave it to you’). I always let Chef Freeman do his magic and surprise me–he gets me all the time!

To sushi: 'I can't feel my face when I'm with you. But I love it!'
To sushi: ‘I can’t feel my face when I’m with you. But I love it!’
  • Best Pizza: Aventino’s

On our third day in Siargao our wallets were getting dry. We were splurging too much and we needed to fill our stomachs well with something more affordable. Aventino’s Pizza was the answer.

Aventino’s had me at their Tricia Pizza, three layers of meat, veggies and cheese. All their other pizzas were just as good too–plus they also offer great pasta, rice meals and wines.

Aventino’s is located near Cloud 9, and they also do delivery.

Photo by Shari Quimbo for Zee Lifestyle
Photo by Shari Quimbo for Zee Lifestyle
  • Best Barbecue: Mama’s BBQ

Siargao cuisine is fairly simple. It’s not commercialized yet, so you won’t expect to find any McDos or Jollibees in town. I was surprised not to see any lechon places even (not even roast chicken kiosks like Chooks-to-Go. If you wanted something roasted, you have to buy the animal and find someone to roast it for you-or do it yourself.

Like Cebuanos, they like their barbecues a lot. BBQ stalls are a staple; from the beaches to the disco clubs. Mama’s BBQ is to Siargao as Larsian is to Cebu. ‘Nuff said.

  • Best Party: Pagoda Beach Bar (UPDATE as of 2016: CLOSED already)

Thankfully Siargao’s night scene has become busier and livelier. To avoid splitting the crowd, parties alternate in the local clubs in a week. They have Acoustic Nights at Buddha Surf every other Thursdays, local disco at ‘Jungle Bar’ on Fridays, the raunchier budots-style music at ‘Stowaway Bar’ on Saturdays, and on Mondays, be sure to be at Pagoda Bar.

The Monday Parties at Pagoda Beach Bar are legendary, don’t miss them. The bar is located just by the beach and a great locale to meet new people–everyone’s so friendly in the island. More foreigners frequent here.

monday funday
Image grabbed from Pagoda Facebook Page
Image grabbed from Pagoda Facebook Page
Image grabbed from Pagoda Facebook Page

It’s odd that the best party’s held at the start of the week, but also makes perfect sense: it’s a lovely way to upstart your week!

Update: Recently, I’ve heard about epic parties that Lux Siargao hosts every Saturdays! Worth checking it out on my next visit!

  • Best Surfer’s Hangout: Jing’s Place

If you want to learn to surf, there are a lot of options in GL–one of the most famous surfer’s hangout is definitely Jing’s Place.

Jing’s Place is a family homestay owned by local surf god Jing, who was among the first to learn and teach surfing, and helped make Cloud 9 the famous surf spot that it is today. You can get accommodations, order food and drink, arrange island hopping, rent surfboards, or get a trainer.

Surf's up! Don't forget your zinc!
Surf’s up! Don’t forget your zinc!
  • Best Surfer Spot: The Boardwalk, Cloud 9

Photo by Zeke Sullano
Photo by Zeke Sullano

Cloud 9 is the reason why Siargao is known as The Surfing Capital of the Philippines. You can go down Cloud 9 to catch big waves that reach up to 10 ft, or go to the Jacking Horse for smaller waves. Even if you’re not a surfer, it’s still fun to get awestruck while watching the experts ride the waves.

  • Best Luxury Resort: Lux Siargao Resort

My friends and I, all ten of us, were able to book this place via Airbnb–and talk about the first-class luxury (redundant, but it’s that awesome!). Designed by famed architect Ed Gallego, Lux Siargao boasts a modern Asian aesthetic set in tropical paradise.

lux siargao and sushi restaurant philippines surf

lux siargao pool resort

lux siargao resort

The whole 5-bedroom, 7-bathroom beachfront estate can be rented exclusively. It can accommodate up to 16 guests and can enjoy full use of the kitchen, pool, beach, grill, and fire pit. If you’re all about exclusivity and comfort, Lux Siargao is the only best.

The owners and staff are very accommodating and friendly. In the evenings, we would make a bonfire and hang out. True enough, by the end of our stay we have gained new friends and fond memories.

bedroom lux siargao philippines

  • Best Mid-Range Resort: Arka Hayahay

For the mid-range budget, Arka Hayahay is a good choice. Designed like a boat (hence the name) and set against blue skies and swaying coconut trees, Arka Hayahay will provide you with cozy accommodations at an affordable rate. It’s just a short motorbike ride away from Cloud 9!

The resort provides both private and dorm-type rooms. Their dormitory fan rooms are 500/bed/night (without breakfast) and their standard rooms are P1,500/night.

arka hayahay 2
Photo grabbed from Arka FB page
arka hayahay hostel
Photo grabbed from Arka FB page
arka hayahay
Photo grabbed from Arka FB page
  • Best Budget Resort: Paglaom Resort

Paglaom Resort is rated #1 specialty lodging in General Luna by Tripadvisor. Paglaom offers bunk bed lodging to budget travelers and backpackers for a cheap rate of P250/night. Nothing can beat that price.

They have shared toilets, outdoor showers, common kitchen, lockers for your backpacks, and free wifi (which is of course the most important amenity!).

paglaom 2
Photos grabbed from Paglaom Website
paglaom
Photos grabbed from Paglaom Website

Postcard Eats: 10 Dove Street Confectionery

A place where Pinterest dreams are made of.

ten dove street as fortuna cebu

Early last week, I was invited to the Grand Launching of 10 Dove Street Confectionery in Oakridge, A.S. Fortuna. 10 D.C. is one of Cebu’s best dessert places with their charming homemade cakes and pastries.

Everything inside is eye candy–or in today’s generation, ‘Instagram-worthy’. Set in nostalgic Victorian candy shop interiors with a creamy white palette and pastel blue details, 10 D.C. is the perfect place for a breakfast club, a Sundate with mom, or a quick catch-up with the girls over English breakfast tea and cake.

breakfast-club-cebu

I couldn’t choose which of the cakes to try (everything looked so good!). So I was told by staff that the Chocolate Decadence, Ube Cake and Fruit Medley are their ultimate bestsellers. I chose the latter to go with my Chocolate Shake, and later commended myself for the wise choice.

chocolate-decadence-cebu-cake
Chocolate Decadence
fruit medley cebu 10 dove street
Fruit Medley Cake
Slice of Fruit Medley Cake with Mango Shake and Chocolate Shake
Slice of Fruit Medley Cake with Mango Shake and Chocolate Shake

I like how 10 DC cakes are full of flavor but doesn’t feel heavy nor sinful. The cakes taste real and homemade–something your beloved tita would make.

Aside from their usual bestsellers, they also have interesting cakes for more daring tastebuds. On my next visit I might try their Red Velvet Cheesecake, Green Tea Layer Cake and Carrot Pineapple Cake.

Seriously, who needs friends when there’s cake?

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Congratulations to the first ten people for winning the Golden Ticket to 10 whole cakes for the next 10 weeks; and the next hundred people for winning 10 free cake slices for the next 10 weeks! Cake lovers are pretty serious about their cake game here.

Congratulations fellow blogger Babe For Food for winning a 10DC Silver Ticket!
Congratulations fellow blogger Babe For Food for winning a 10DC Silver Ticket!
Thanks for the love, Ten Dove! (it rhymes!)
Thanks for the love, Ten Dove! (it rhymes!)
  • Address: Oakridge Business Park, AS Fortuna Street, Mandaue City
  • Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily
  • Contact Numbers: (032) 418 1010 or 0917 625 7013

If you fancy more than just desserts and want a full meal such as pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads, check out 10 Dove Street’s restaurant, also located in Oakridge Business Park.

What’s In A (Filipino) Name?

One of the questions I shudder about getting asked is, ‘What’s the story behind your baby’s name?

Naming is probably one of the most challenging tasks set forth by man–whether it’s naming a person, a pet, a business, a blog handle or a newly discovered animal species. It should probably be taken more seriously, but it really just took me thirty minutes, tops. What kind of mother.

Back in the olden times, infant mortality rate was very high and thus it was customary for babies to have no name for the first few years of their life. Why name a babe if they’re least likely to reach childhood, lest adulthood? Thanks to developments in science and modern medicine in the past century, infant and toddler health has vastly improved (This has not always been the case for most of the history of humankind). Parents nowadays choose their baby’s name way before their babies are out of the womb.

A name is permanent, and once it’s been named, it’s stuck forever. I don’t blame my childhood friend whose dad and four other brothers were all named ‘Mark’. Better safe than sorry, right? Although calling him on their landline was awkward and confusing back then. (Still is).

So my criteria for naming my baby was pretty basic: that it’s easy to remember, it’s easy to spell, and a nice sound to the name.

‘Easy to Remember’

I have friends with lovable and unique names: Poopie, Chatline, Jim Beam, Pepper, Gaga, (a man), just to name a few.Even I am not spared. My senior high classmates still call me ‘Snoopy’ ten years later for some inside story I can no longer remember. I hated that nickname.

Where else in the world could we find a cardinal named ‘Sin’, a politician named ‘Joker’, and a matinee idol named ‘Dingdong’? It’s more fun in the Philippines!

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Names can range from mildly funny to wildly unflattering. We once had an employee named ‘Windshield’. I met a girl in an outreach named ‘Virgin’. And then there was the infamous man who passed the 2014 bar exam named ‘Habeas Corpuz’. An ex-seminarian I know was quirkily named ‘Van Go’, but upon further prodding I was disappointed to know that he doesn’t paint.

I want my son to stand out, but not too much to become the target to future school bullies.

‘Easy to Spell’

I have a fairly common name, ‘Rachel’, which I use in my email and social media accounts. Still, my name still gets butchered on a daily basis. I now know that my name can be spelled in at least seven different ways: Rachell, Rachelle, Reychel, Raychelle, Richelle, Ritcil, Rashel, among other variations.

Filipinos like names that are Western-sounding but also hate giving their kids a ‘common’ name. To remedy this, some parents choose to make ‘alternative spellings and names morph like mutant X-men: ‘Jessica’ would become ‘Jyssikah’, ‘Caitlyn’ becomes ‘Kaetlynn’, or ‘Adrian’ becomes ‘Aedryanne’.

While I laud the creativity, I feel bad for the kid for problems they’ll encounter in the future on the butchered name department. It will be annoying filling up those government forms, or ordering a venti cup from Starbucks. Teaching them their Alpha-Bravo-Charlies early will definitely come in handy.

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‘The Art of the Name…’

How do parents come up with their baby’s name–particularly, Filipino parents? Filipinos are known to have really quirky naming skills. No one seems to flinch about peculiar names in this country because we grew up to all the weirdness all our lives. You only realize how weird the names are when taken from a foreigner’s perspective (such as by Matthew Sutherland).

During the Spanish times, it was customary to name children based on the feasts of saints celebrated during that day. That is why it’s not uncommon for our grandparents to have names such as Natividad, Asuncion, Concepcion, Lourdes, and even Circumcision (there is a thing known as The Feast of the Circumcision of our Lord back in the day!)

My son Caleb was born on Christmas day, to which people in the Philippines would often respond ‘You should have named him ‘Emmanuel’. Ironically, both my brother and father are named ‘Noel’, but neither were even born during Christmas season.

Other odd naming practices in the country: If you come from a Filipino family, we all have an uncle or male relative named ‘Boy’–and a tita named ‘Girlie‘, ‘Baby‘ or ‘Babes‘. The Filipino-Chinese have the preference of putting the suffix ‘-son’ in their names. Names such as ‘Benson’, ‘Harrison’ or ‘Johnson’ are popular among the Filipino-Chinese community. My personal favorite is the ‘themed families’; who name their children after fruits, seasons, virtues, superheroes, desserts or Beatles band members. So if you know a guy named ‘Newton’, he probably also has a sister named ‘Marie Curie’. I am saying this with a straight face.

‘…And Nicknames’

Nicknames are an integral part of the Filipino culture. Have you ever had a friend who everyone refers to by their nickname that no one really knows what their real name really was? I have a good friend named ‘Poopie‘ whom I met back in college– but seriously didn’t know her real name for years until she added me on Facebook. (I remember proclaiming ‘Who the hell is Michelle?’ when I got her friend request.

Filipinos like to make nicknames out of everything. Repeating syllables is a form of endearment, so common Filipino nicknames include ‘Len-len’, ‘Bam-bam’, ‘Dan-dan’, ‘Mik-mik’, the list goes on. Our current president is better known to the public as ‘Noynoy’. And even if you have a short name like ‘Seth’, your friends will call you by a longer nickname, ‘Set-Set’.

And then we also see the trend of ‘combining’ names to make up new names. Jomari is the offspring of Jose and Maria, and Gracniel’s parents were probably named ‘Grace’ and ‘Daniel’. My former school principal was called Luzviminda after Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. How else did current Vice President Jejomar Binay get his name but by combining Jesus, Joseph and Mary together?

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President Noynoy and VP Jejomar

A two-syllable name that’s short, concise and unnickname-able–that’s what I wanted for my baby. Unfortunately some of his cheeky ninongs have started calling him ‘Leb-leb’ and even ‘Taleb‘.

He’ll probably acquire a few more nicknames from family and friends as he grows older.


(P.S., I don’t hate unique names. I love them! Like what Sutherland said, imagine if we live in a world full of John Smiths, life would be so boring, won’t it?) 😄

Cebu Pacific Travel Hacks

I’m a Cebu Pacific frequent flyer, but I’m not gonna lie: I had my own share of Cebu Pacific horror stories. I’ve waited six hours on the airport because of delays. I’ve been left by the plane (even if I was on time). A rude Korean passenger had constantly kicked my airline seat because he didn’t appreciate the plane’s legroom, so I decided to recline my seat to annoy him further. Because I can be nice like that sometimes.

Despite all my bad experiences, I still fly Cebu Pacific, because, why the hell not? No one can beat the CebPac rates. I’m a Cebu Pacific trooper since 2006 and I have seen great improvement on service and support throughout the years.

If you can’t beat Cebu Pacific, what can you do? Do damage control and mitigate (a word I just learned and so badly want to use!). Read through this blog to have future pleasurable flights through some important travel hacks and tips I’ve learned from my constant flights.

  • How to Avoid Delayed Flights

Per my experiences, domestic flights across all local airlines are almost always delayed from 15 to 90 minutes. That’s perfectly normal and something expected in the Philippines due to air traffic congestion, late arrival of aircraft from origin, among others.

The simplest solution is to take the first flight. The first flight is an originator flight, meaning it begins at your specific airport, meaning you won’t be waiting for your aircraft coming from another destination to arrive. A few minutes delay in the first wave of flights will mean delay in subsequent flights throughout the day.

Flying earlier in the day provide a lot of benefits. Sure, waking up before sunrise is hard, but that’s the only most difficult thing. I normally fly between 4am to 6am, or the first wave of flights for a number of reasons: to bypass traffic on the road, less people on the flight, flight crew still on a better mood (not yet sapoton), on-time flights, and these first flights often offer the cheapest rates.

  • How to Book Promo Flights

I’ve heard a lot of people whine that Cebu Pacific piso fares as scams or deceptive marketing strategies. Here’s what I got to say to the skeptics: the piso fare deal is real. I’ve booked piso fare flights countless times. Piso fare flights seem elusive to more people than others–you need to be smart and quick to get these flights!

Piso fares do get sold out quick. I constantly check Cebu Pacific’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts just to be ahead of everyone. The Cebu Pacific website is on my browser’s main web pages. What disorder do you call ardent stalking and an obsessive need to find promo flights? Because, I probably have that.

BTW, piso fare is only the base rate, and does not include other additional fees such as tax, VAT, web admin fee, baggage allowance, etc. It is still cheap however. To give you a good overview, here’s an estimate of roundtrip flights I’ve bought or seen during Cebu Pacific promos:

  • Cebu to Manila: Php 1,500
  • Cebu to Hong Kong: Php 3,000
  • Cebu to Singapore: Php 3,500
  • Manila to Sydney: Php 6,000
  • Manila to Dubai: Php 9,000
  • Manila to Siem Reap: Php 4,000

As of 2015, Cebu Pacific has also removed the fuel surcharge on all promo flights, in line with decreasing fuel prices worldwide.

No one knows when a promo fare comes out, but based on observation I often expect them to come out on Philippine holidays, and they usually make the promo announcements on ungodly hours like 12am-3am.

Sometimes, I could get the promo on a flight to a destination, but have a hard time getting the same promo offer on the return flight. If I can’t find a good return rate, I just buy a one-way ticket and worry about buying the return flight on the next seat sale.

Another tip: when I travel to Europe, I normally book a promo flight from Cebu to Hong Kong and then find another budget airline that can take me from HK to European cities for cheap (as low as 25,000php round trip!)

  • Check in Luggage or Hand Carry?

Prepaid baggage is a wise option to get as excess baggage rates are steep (especially for international flights). I’m a light traveler, so I can normally just backpack and skip check-in luggage. Most airlines allow a carry-on maximum of 7kg. To be safe, I sometimes purchase luggage on the return flight because my carry-on weight increases– dirty laundry is always heavier, plus additional shopping and pasalubong items add to the pile.

Trust me, I’ve begged another Filipino to place my excess items to his check-in luggage. I was refused and the nerve of him because he did not even look anything like JM de Guzman. Won’t work, it only happens in the movies.

(Additional note: Although to be fair, if someone asks you to place items in your luggage, it is wise to refuse, else you could be the next trafficking victim)

  • How to Avoid Missing a Flight 

You’re not a true traveler if you’ve never missed a flight. So far, I’ve missed one domestic flight (Cebu-Cagayan) and one international flight (Dubai-London) for different reasons, both which I traveled with family. I never missed a flight when traveling solo, probably because I’m more aware and accountable for myself when I’m alone haha.

Missing a flight is inconvenient, expensive and annoying. Missing a flight can get you stranded at the airport for several hours to a day. It’s something I never want anyone to experience, so here are tips on how to avoid missing a CebPac flight:

  • The most obvious tip: don’t stay too far from your gate. After going through check-in, immigration and security checks and once you’re inside the terminal, don’t get distracted about getting food or looking at duty-free shops. The first thing you need to do is to locate your gate number. Once you’ve found it, you can probably do your own thing if you still have extra time. But don’t stay too far away from your gate and be wary of any intercom announcements.
  • For connecting flights, allow at least 4 hour time allowance in between flights. Domestic flights are notorious for delays, and you need at least two hours to check in for international flights, go through immigration and security checks.
  • 5J vs TG. Know your Terminal number–especially when in NAIA. Most Cebu Pacific flights are in T3, but since the TigerAir and Cebu Pacific merger, you will now have to check if your flight is a 5J (Cebu Pacific) or a TG (TigerAir). TG flights are in NAIA 4.
  • Should I Get a GetGo Card?

GetGo is CEB’s newest rewards program for frequent fliers where you can earn GetGo points when flying Cebu Pacific. Through the points you can also earn free flights.

Those who were already signed up for CEB Club become automatic GetGo Members. Non-CEB Club members can become GetGo members by paying the initial membership fee of P150.

I am now a GetGo member but still waiting for my card to arrive via mail. I haven’t converted points for free flights yet, so I’ll reserve judgement as of now (but I will update you soon). It’s worth a try to get a GetGo card, there’s nothing to lose. Currently, they are still on beta mode and improving the system and partnering with more merchants to create a more pleasant lifestyle program for their members.

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So there you go–some CebPac Travel Hacks that can improve the quality of our flight experience. Let’s make every flight count!

(DISCLAIMER: These insights are based on my personal experiences and may not reflect the experience of other travelers.)

Aside from Sand and Sea, what else is there in Bantayan?

 I admit, I’m a Bantayan newbie.

I’ve only been to the island three years ago. I’ve been back at least once a year since. Last year, we took my then three-year-old for his first out-of-town trip to Bantayan. I seriously never heard of Bantayan until we moved to Cebu from Mindanao. In a way, I think Cebuanos try their best to keep the virgin paradise hidden, like their own secret treasure. I don’t blame them for being a bit selfish–Bantayan is beautiful.

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Beautiful island, sand as fine as sugar.

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Still, I can’t say I know so much about Bantayan, it’s still mysterious to me. I have tons of friends who are from there (Nath, Cecille), and they’re very proud about their island roots.

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It’s easy to fall in love with the island. It may be very tempting to stay by their pristine white sand beaches all day, but what else is there to do in Bantayan aside from getting some vitamin sea?

Explore the Laidback Island

The easiest way to explore the island is to rent a motorbike. Bantayan is only 11km wide so you can easily go around the island via motorbike in half a day. For only P300, you can have the motorbike for the whole day. We explored the island’s three municipalities (Santa Fe, Madridejos, Bantayan) the whole afternoon with as many stopovers as we could. Take your time.

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Ejay and I both love the freedom a motorbike provides when we’re out on the province. We toss the map away and try to find our way back (or try to recreate a map on our own!). Sometimes I feel like we’re MMORPG characters obsessed with the need to explore every square inch of the magical realm in search for cool monsters to fight with awesome treasure and discover secret side quests. In the real world, we only find occasional carabao dung hidden beneath the long grass. Sigh. But that’s okay, it’s still fun.

Appreciate Bantayan’s Forts

A little trivia about the island’s name. Folklore says that Bantayan was home to 18 watchtowers, to look over incoming moro pirate vessels. During the watchmen’s vigil, they would say ‘Bantayan! Bantayan!’ or ‘Keep watch! Keep watch!‘, which is how the island got its name.

Many of the watchtowers no longer survive, but some relics remain. The best surviving one is the fort in Kota Park, Madridejos. It might look like just a bunch of stones to most people, but they served an important purpose centuries ago.

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These forts are around 200-300 years old! That’s so cool to me!

The old Spanish forts and churches were built so sturdily to protect the natives from kidnapping. Moro raiders and pirates used to come at night and steal girls and boys to be sold off to slavery. Slavery was the biggest and most profitable industry during its hay days. If it weren’t for these forts our folks might have ended up in Slaver’s Bay and be one of Khaleesi’s Unsullied. (I had to mention that because GOT is showing again soon!)
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It is amazing how Spanish walls and forts, made from stone or quicklime with egg whites as mortar still survive centuries after, despite constant visits from typhoons and earthquakes. Many of our modern buildings (like the CICC) weren’t as lucky.

Appreciate the old Spanish Houses

I marvel at the old Spanish plazas you can only find in out-of-the-way provincial towns. It’s amazing to see how Spanish colonial urban planning is like, how buildings and streets were organized into grid, and how it’s still being used centuries after the first plan was drawn out by order of the Spanish king.

The municipality of Bantayan is laid out in a colonial Spanish layout. Typically, there is a central plaza and heart of the city is the iglesia or church, the town council building, the residences of main religious and political officials, the residences of the city wealthy and VIPs, and the principal businesses were also stationed around the central plan. The less important people live further out of the grid.

Oldest Church in Cebu

The houses are typical 19th century Spanish colonial architecture known as ‘bahay na bato’. I like exploring ancestral homes and how similar they are in elements–typical two storey house, a mosquito net in the bedroom, a big heavy piano in the sala, massive door made of hardwood, and religious idols and crucifixes adorned in every room of the house.

‘Bahay na bato’ are modeled after the pre-hispanic ‘bahay kubo’, but bigger and made of more concrete materials. It is built to be suited to the tropics, with good ventilation, high ceiling, enough openings to let air and light in but at the same time provide enough protection from rain and heat of the sun.

This makes you wonder though, if the old Spanish houses were a symbol of Filipino identity and ingenuity, why don’t we build houses in this tradition to keep our heritage? Why do we allow the last of our ‘endangered’ houses to be destroyed and replaced by ‘modern Asian’ or minimalist building styles, when these houses were perfectly built for the tropical climate?

The Best Sunsets. Ever.

While I am the most un-sentimental person who cannot appreciate fireworks and babies and puppies, I swoon at the beauty of Bantayan sunsets; the pink cotton balls wrapped within the velvet blanket sky, the last of warm hues kissing the horizon, promising another tomorrow (eek. #langleav will be proud). Seriously, Bantayan sunsets are so possessing they made me poetic for a second there. I hope that won’t happen again hahaha.

Every time I’m in Bantayan there’s always something new to discover. What are some things I missed and places you can recommend for a Bantayan Newbie like me?