Friday, May 6, 2011

Mabuhay Philippines: Banaue, Sagada, Baguio and Manila in 4 Days

When I first mentioned I wanted to go to Phlippines for holiday, there were a couple of negative reactions. They were like, "Eugh, why? There's nothing there" or "Is it even safe there?"

Well, I'm here to tell you that YES there are countless things to see there and YES it safe, granted you are with a reliable tour guide and you yourself are careful and cautious all the time.

We spent 4 days 3 nights there, arranged a private tour with a guide recommended by friends who have been there, and paid RM550 for the tour, accomodation and transport.

We went to four major sightseeing places in Philippines: Banaue, Sagada, Baguio and Manila.

The guide told us that our itinerary should be a 10 day trip as these places were miles away from each other. We were gonna be dead tired by the time we're on our flight back home.

But it was worth it. There were sightseeing, adventuring, clubbing, shopping and dining glorious food. It was damn worth it.

YOU who think that Philippines is a filthy, unsafe place WILL beg to differ.


Upon arriving Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Clark at around 3.30 p.m., our guide's driver, Dante was already waiting for us outside.

Or rather, we were stricken with panic as we couldn't find the person holding up a sign with 'Ms Amanda Wong' written on it. We blamed ourselves for taking hundreds of pictures at the runway out of excitement, apart from thinking we were downright conned.

But our driver did appear - rather he was there all along and were confused whether these strange looking people were his clients.

We then hopped in his Isuzu Crosswind and met our guide, Sonny, along the way. The first place we were brought to was Jollibee, Philippines most famous fastfood chain as we were starved.

The currency there really, really confused us initially. What costs only 'bout RM7 looked like it costs hundreds of dollars.

Then we got ourselves sim/IDD cards for us to be able to call my boyfriend our family back home.

Happy that we were still be able to find a way to contact people back home in case something happens to us during our excursion, we braced ourselves for the 11 hour journey to Banaue.

Along the way, we encountered a Good Friday procession. The houses and shops along the road were in a really poor state, but my Lord, the 'floats' (don't know if I should call them that) were built for kings!

Dante suddenly pulled over by the side of the road and we wondered what's wrong. They were hungry, that's was wrong. So we had a pure Filipino dinner that night - manuk and baboy adobo (black sauce chicken and pork), some animal's bile soup, steamed fish and manggos. Ripe, sweet yellow manggos eaten with rice! I was hesistant for a while, but it really tasted good! And Coke. I noticed they really love their Coke.

So we continued our journey through quiet towns going uphill through puke-inducing winding road. Luckily it was night time - we were spared from seeing how dangerous the road might have been.

When Sonny told us it was going to be an 11 hour journey to Banaue, it didn't register in my head that we would arrive at probably 3 to 4 a.m. in the morning. So THANK GOD, we arrived much earlier - exactly midnight. I shudder to think how our driver could cut a few hours of the journey.

See how much they love their Coke?

Half dead, we plonked ourselves at Sanafe Lodge in our naturally air-conditioned room and prayed that the 8 hour journey was worth it.


So, was it worth it? We woke up to this.

Damn straight.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Banaue Town.

Knowing me, you know I had to be trippin'.

No tricyclist/pedestrian was hurt during this shot

About half an hour away from town, we saw what we came to see.

Banaue Rice Terrace - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Also known as the Eighth Wonder of The World.

If my eyes could have sex, this would be the most epic eye sex they have ever had.

We also saw things we didn't think we'd see.

After taking millions of postcard worthy photos, we then head to Sagada, a journey again uphill through puke-inducing winding road.

And in the middle of that God forsaken road, there was a huge Virgin Mary statue.

It was not so God forsaken after all.

The journey to Sagada was equally breathtaking. Suicidal, but breathtaking.

2 hours later, we reached Sagada, a town waaay uphill. A mountain, I dare say. They name the place Mount Province for a reason.

There are two things to do in Sagada.

Go caving!

Not a walk in a park!

But there were some tranquil moments within the cave with its ice cold gravity water.

The interior of the cave was simply magnificent, and like I said earlier, there were things that we thought we wouldn't see.

If you're not seeing what I'm seeing, just keep it that way.

The second thing to do in Sagada is to go visit The Hanging Coffins.

In the middle of the red circle are coffins stacked rather mysteriously.

Check the skull. Pretty cool huh. Creepy cool.

Here's the massive burial uh, cave?

If you're not afraid of getting curse or get poked in the eye by ghostly bony creepy fingers, you can actually check what's inside the coffins.

Luckily, no eyes were poked. Or soul cursed.

Completely exhausted, we then continued our journey to Baguio. 6 hours later, we finally reached the Summer Capital of The Philippines. You'd think we're completely zombified by the time we reach Baguio and would sell our kidneys for a bed. But nooo...

A holiday isn't just complete without hitting the clubs.

Or what the Filipinos would say," PARTAY PARRTAAAY!"

We first went to a restaubar to watch live bands.

The thing that shocked us about the clubbing culture in Baguio was that the clubbers are pretty laid back. They can just dress as casually like they just came back from the supermarket. Or market for that matter. They do not have to dress to the nines, they don't have to impress anybody or take down any bitches in fashion war. They just wanna have pure fun. Even their furniture is laidback.

Oh by the way, their local brew San Miguel only costs a ringgit or two per pop and oh the cocktails! My Sex on the Beach only costs around RM7 whereas in Malaysia it's double and in high end clubs, triple. MAD!

After breaking a few bones in our legs dancing, Sonny decided it wasn't enough for us yet. Yeah, coolest. Guide. Ever. So he brought us bar hopping.

There was this underground pub where he brought us in - but get this, the guys get to get in for free and I have to pay 100 pesos (RM7). And another pub where they wouldn't let us enter because apparently, I have boobs. Friends, strip clubs are NOT pussy friendly. Though I did caught a glimpse of a stripper about to wriggle herself out of her miniscule panty. Aaand the guys dragged me out. Dang it!

Then he brought us to a place called Nevada - the most happening place in Baguio.

As you can see in the photo, this huge space is surrounded by one building in a U-shape which consists of yes you guessed right - clubs. And yes, they look like houses and entering the clubs is like entering a room. And the huge space is where people chillax after getting hammered in the clubs. We then entered Friday's, the best club in Baguio for six consecutive years.

It was indeed on fire and the DJ could've burned the roof down. We had to head back early 'coz we were going to have another long journey the next day. 3 a.m. was early in Filipino clubber's time. FYI, the clubs have no curfew. If people wanna party till 8 in the morning, by george, the DJ's gonna have to keep spinning till 8 in the morning.

I haven't clubbed this hard since I became a teacher.

As we reached our vacation house, we immediately passed out on our bed dreaming about peacocks, motels, hotels, and holiday inns.


After getting only 3 hours of sleep, we woke up to such a beautiful, cool morning.

This is what they call there a vacation house. It's like renting an apartment, but a house, duh.

The thing about Baguio is that it is a city way up on the hills. So residential areas are just spread out like jam all over the hills.

The first must go place in Baguio is the Lourdes Grotto.

Along the way, they'd be vendors selling taho. It's like our very own tau fu fah mixed with sago and strawberries. Being a cool place, strawberries sprout there like uh, weed?

Then we went for more sightseeing at Wright Park and The Mansion.

After camwhoring ourselves silly, we decided the best place for 'sightseeing' is ahem, the shopping mall.

After blowing thousands of pesos on things that I would hardly wear but like the moment I saw on sales, we then continued our once again long journey to Manila.

There was this impressively humongous lion head along the way that we HAD to stop and take hundreds of photos with it.

After a gruelling 7 hours journey, we finally reached Manila, the Capital City of Philippines.

Oh, I told you I had glorious food, right?

The lechon (roasted pork) was orgasmic. Proof above.

Also, I'm proud to say that I HAVE EATEN A BALUT. Or in a universal language we all understand - duck embryo/fetus.

Yup, I ate that nasty. Sonny said, "You haven't been to Philippines till you eat a balut." So I did it. It helped that when I ate it was during our journey to Manila and it was pretty dark in the van so you can hardly see what you're eating.

People, it tasted GOOD! I kid you not. It really is good. You just have to add salt on it and you're good to go. Did I crunch on soft bones? Did feathers got stuck on my teeth? Hell no! It tasted exactly how an egg should taste like. No smell, no bitterness, no fur. So the hype of it being a 'Fear Factor' food is completely bull. Psh, I'd rather have balut everyday than bean sprouts.

Since we arrived Manila at about 9 p.m., there wasn't much we could do but to just go around the city seeing how alive it was at night.

By the time we reached the Mall of Asia, it was already midnight and obviously closed. But there were still people (and children!) buzzing around the place like it was still 6 p.m. and like they don't have to go to work on Monday the next day. The clubs were still rocking, couples still dating by the bay, youngsters getting on the flying fox and reverse bungee, old folks chillin' at Starbucks and children still playing in their endless playground. Manila is so alive!

But we badly needed sleep. So off we head to our hotel, Casa Bocobo.


Since it was the last day in Philippines and we had to be at Clark airport by 2 p.m., there wasn't much to do but go on a speed sightseeing tour.

The first place we went was Intramuros, The Walled City of Manila.

This is where the old buildings from the Spaniard colonisation still exist. Even some parts of the road are still in stone.

Even the policemen dress like they are still stuck in the 17th century.

There we went to see the San Augustin Church - the oldest church in Philippines.

The intricate design on the church is just mindblowing.

Then we went to see another church - the romanesque Manila Cathedral.

Mind = blown.

After that, we head out to see the must-see-places-as-tourists monuments of the locals' heroes, Jose Rizal and Lapu-Lapu.

Before heading back to Clark, there was this street that our guide wanted us to see.

Lecho baboy haven. And heaven for oink oink lovers. The whole stretch of the street. They even develop a technology to roast their pigs on auto mode.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you 'bout a typical scene on a road in Philippines.

Overloading passengers is very much normal there.

We then said goodbye to Manila as we head to Clark for another 2 hour journey. There, we still had time to do last minute shopping in another SM Mall. Guess what SM stands for? *hint: shop, mall.

Shopaholics out there, clothes for women are not that abundant compared for men, but the bags and shoes there are fucking cheap. These babies only cost RM70 and RM50 respectively.

Okay, maybe not so cheap compared to other countries, but still, I was on shopping frenzy that I had to borrow 3000 pesos from my lovely friends. And yes, I do wear those shoes to school like a boss.

I also bought things that you can't get here in Malaysia.

And I just got the title of Best Girlfriend Ever.

All in all, Philippines was a BLAST. And I so wanna go there again. I got beaches and volcanos that I haven't tread yet.

My tip for those who wanna go there is just this: get a tour guide. You'd be so lost the moment you reach Clark, especially if none of you have never been to Philippines. And as for those who are Muslims, well, it's really hard to find halal food there. Most restaurants there serve sinful and sinfully good food there, even in fast food restaurants. You gotta be open-minded enough to be able to survive in most places in Philippines.

KFC not an exception.

Bacon. Mmm.
I miss it already.

Here's some moving pictures to give you an exact idea of how our trip was.

Still think Philippines is a bad place to go? I bet not.

**You can contact our guide Sonny via Facebook and arrange a private tour. Oh the places that you'll go!


NekochanMiruku said...

Absolutely Mind Blowing!!

chegu carol said...

Ah tipu tu Balut yg ko makan. How come the one Alvin ate smelled so lansi ni...iskhhh

Punya la long journey kamu punya itinerary kan. Uishhh but yeah from the look of it, you girls really had fun. Tu yg lelaki yg balik2 keluar dlm gambar ko tu, is that the tour guide?

p/s I dream of going to Manila without the hubby. All girls. The hubby dream of going to Manila without me. All boys. Prolly cos of that strip club punya no-real-boobs policy. Cilaka!

Santafire said...

whoa, hanya pernah baca the coffin stacks from books. I definitely wanna peek in em!

Amanda Christine Wong said...

Nekochan: YES YES YES!

Carol:astaga,betul ba! i guess ngam2 he got yg lansi punya la..hehe...nah, that's one of my buddies...heh...and yes, omg, enjoy berabis ni...hehe. Ba,ngam la kamu dua -plan separate trips...ada strip club for the ladies jg tu, yg i guess si alvin cant enter ;)

Santafire: was a bit creepy at first, but its just bones.

Cynta said...

siok oh kamu!!! kesedapan sia tingu tu baboy on sticks haha

chegu carol said...

ok i have to correct this. Alvin said, he agrees with smell, no weird taste..just normal boiled egg taste...kasi campur tu garam/cuka sikit...nah sedap.
that was just me..weird why i could smell something time lah sa pigi lagi,sa pun try wallop the whole thing. haha

Amanda Christine Wong said...

Cynta: omg cynta, u HAVE to be there to taste it! ~heaven

Carol:Seeee? hehehe...psycho diri sendiri ja ba tu ;p

AnnieMing said...

Siok oo! I'll definitely go there. Maybe not this year, but tingu la.. Next year? ;-D Hihi..

Amanda Christine Wong said...

annie: baa...plan la, n buy tiket awal2. selagi u not yet buy ticket, u'll keep on putting it off...hee

Dev Clarehova said...

Gore Team is absolutely great!!! ^___^

Amanda Christine Wong said...

Dev Clarehova: yes he is! :D

ike said...

I'm happy that you enjoyed your trip here and had a great guide.

There really are wonderful places to visit in the Philippines, and you've only seen the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Amanda Christine Wong said...

ike: I so did! and yes, I'd like to go there again :D