“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

19 January 2014

Bucketlist: A holiday cruise

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It has been my long-time dream to go on a holiday cruise -- be it in the Far East or somewhere more culturally diverse and visually engaging. I would long for that day when you are just on board and enjoying a company of your loved ones and other people who only wanted to savor the art of loafing and traveling.

Virgin Holiday Cruises gives a traveler an idea about a dream holiday cruise. Not only does it provide the details one needs but also gives the options on where you would want to spend on a next holiday, wherever you are in the part of the globe. Not only that, a star-studded cruise is also a come on! Elton John aboard? Whoa!

Cruising in the Far East might augur well for those living in the cold countries experiencing the polar vortex. It is time to escape the cold [read: freezing] weather and bask under the sun.

 Here is an info graphic about Virgin Holiday Cruise package:

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27 December 2013

2013's Top 10 travel stories

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In the tradition of sharing my most read travel stories that started in 2012, I bring to you, again, the most read (if not loved) posts in The Pinoy Explorer in 2013.

This, however, is not limited to posts made in 2013. Rather, this is a compilation of stories that made impact on the readers. Expectedly, old posts would occupy the top spot, but it is not always the case. Six (6) articles from 2012's Top 10 popular travel stories were "dropped" this year, and replaced by equally interesting travel stories.

What are the Top 10 Travel stories in The Pinoy Explorer? Read on.

Note: The title have links to the original article. To view a photo slide show, just click on the photos that will lead you to my Flickr photo stream.

1. The ugly truth about the Paradise Island of Boracay remains on the top list since it was published on February 23, 2013. This is a proof that The Pinoy Explorer readers are not callous to the over-development of the Island of Boracay, and perhaps the exploitation of pristine environment, as well as the plight of the indigenous peoples--be it in Boracay or not. I consider this the most influential post I have made since I started "advocacy-filled" travel stories after the issue on SM Baguio and my brief sojourn in the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which shares the limelight as 2nd and 3rd most read, respectively.

I hope, this post is not forgotten in the passing of time. If you care about the Ati community in Boracay, please do share this post and educate more people about their plight. You may also like their FB page provided in the article.

2. 10 ways to appreciate and enjoy Baguio City sans the SM City-Baguio now occupies the second from its third spot last year. This story simply says that there is more than the usual fare that any mall can offer. Literally, it encourages everyone to go out, stop, and smell the flowers. It is Baguio, for Heaven's sake. Go away from the malls! Baguio City outdoors can never be boring. Trust me.

3. Exploring the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was already popular when it was published but it did not get the numbers to make it to the Top 10. Out of nowhere, this post jumps to the 3rd most popular. Based on the searches and inquiries, perhaps, this was a topic in class where many graduating engineering students would like to visit. As I mentioned in this blog, getting in here is like Discovery Channel experience.

4. Lang-ay Festival of Mountain Province is one of the best and authentic festivals I have witnessed. There were no fancy costumes and played up and borrowed music and choreography--just the real thing. I wish to see this again in the future. This did not make it to the top 10 last year but it jumps to the fourth position this year.

5. When "It's More Fun in the Philippines" clicks, and when it doesn't used to be on top of the list last year. Nonetheless, gives the reader an idea what it takes for the Philippines to truly live with the expectations of the buzz meme. After two years that this campaign was launched, is it really "more fun in the Philippines?"

6. Religious pilgrimage sites and Visita Iglesia in the Philippines is another "new entry" to the top 10. It is a collaboration among several travel bloggers who shared their articles and photos to make this travel story come true. This is not a complete compilation of the pilgrimage sites, but nonetheless, informative for the believers on what place to visit this coming Holy Week.

7. Revisiting Barangay Calima is not your usual travel story about any usual travel destination. My visit here was work related. I have been here twice. In the first visit, I did not have much time to photograph or move around. This time, I thought I should give it a shot. Residents of Brgy. Calima were just ecstatic seeing their "unknown" barangay being featured here. Who would not? Social networking shares here and their made it clinch the 7th spot. They say there is a nice falls farther out there. I hope I have the third time to visit it.

8. Bohol: Heart of the Philippine Islands used to be on the second spot, but I think this post will bring it back to its former glory after Bohol has been declared safe and open to local and foreign tourists after the earthquake. Why not? It still has nice beaches and historical "ruins" site, and most of the most amiable people in the Philippines! Go, visit Bohol!

9. PTB Blog Carnival | The Visayas roundup is another list for those who are raring to see more of the Visayas. After the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) ravaged the region, there may be less attraction, for now. But based on this interactive map, one can still enjoy the Visayas. Support their tourism industry. Visit Visayas!

View Visayas Roundup in a larger map

10. Ticao Island | Mangrove Walk at Bongsanglay Mangrove Natural Park is a story about one of my best travels so far. I got to volunteer documenting the flora and fauna of the Bongsanglay Mangrove Natural Park, and I got to enjoy the pristine nature, and most especially, I became "grounded" again in development work after communing with fisherfolks. This is not your usual travel destination, but it is all worth exploring it! Now, I am excited to see the 2014 calendar that PFEC has published--that features some of my photos.

I hope you like the Top 10. It wouldn't hurt much if you share this article, too, right? Look for the tiny sharing links below this article.

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21 December 2013

KLM: Take full control of your trip with your mobile

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Gone were the days when you have to lose a half day's work just to buy an airline ticket. Back then, it was just too cumbersome taking a trip to the airline ticketing center, travel offices or spend more time calling customer representatives to get the flight details, that sometimes ends up with some clerical errors on your name or worse, your flight details.

I have experienced this when airline ticketing was still in its Jurassic era. In my conversation with the customer service representative, I remembered it so well that I booked for a Friday afternoon flight, but upon picking up my printed ticket from the airline office, I learned that I had a Saturday flight, instead. It was just too much a hassle have my ticket changed again for this simple miscommunication between me and the customer service representative.

I am glad that we are now in the digital era and quite relieved that airlines operating in and out of the Philippines are now online that allows you to have your ticket booked instantly -- at your fingertips.

Also, with social networking still on the rise and continue to control our lives, we sometimes overlook that fact that mobile communication devices right before us and right in our hands, are now more powerful and can make our lives a lot easier.

As part of their campaign, KLM recently "launched a crowd-sourcing challenge in Asia, in which it asked video creative to communicate the wide variety of mobile and online services it offers. KLM received many creative and out-of-the- box ideas. The contestants didn't only deliver these ideas, they actually made the videos themselves. This resulted in some very funny videos, all communicating that one important message: with KLM, you can take full control of your trip with your mobile."


When you are flying from Asia to the any part of the world, learn more about KLM destinations and the KLM online services.

Note: This is a sponsored post.

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08 November 2013

Baguio City | The Diplomat Hotel scare

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Diplomat Hotel

The veins in my temple were throbbing more as we entered the building. As I explored the interiors, the searing pain was becoming more unbearable. This headache started while exploring the Laperal House, but I was hell-bent in demystifying this so called "haunted" place.

The interesting-ness of former Diplomat Hotel came to the fore only when this was abandoned after it was razed by fire 1987. Honestly, this was my first time to enter the compound. This used to be a hotel when I was still a college student in Baguio City, and known to be a residence of Tony Agpaoa, the faith healer. It was a private place, so there was no chance to visit it during my days in the City of Pines.

Diplomat Hotel

Only after the death of Agpaoa that ghost stories came out. Stories narrated about headless apparitions of black and white images at night inside the hotel. When it was still operating, the employees and guests also claimed that they have been hearing strange sounds. Residents around the area recounted stories about hearing strange sounds like banging of doors and windows, dishes clattering, and screaming in the middle of the night.

Urban legend has it that these strange and ghostly phenomena are those of its former occupants as well as the terminally ill patients of Agpaoa. Before it was bought by Agpaoa, it was owned by Americans who settled in Baguio City in the early 1900s until the Dominican priests build a vacation house on the top of this hill in 1911, thus the name Dominican Hill.

What made it more convincingly scary was the fact that it was not spared from the shelling by the Japanese Army Liberation Forces. Baguio City's history would tell that refugees fleeing from the Japanese soldiers took refuge inside the vacation house, only to become victims of Baguio bombing. This brought a lot of damage to the building, that a reconstruction was an option. The reconstruction was finished in 1948. Accounts also tell that nuns and priests were also beheaded during the war that it was believed to be the reason for headless apparitions.

Diplomat Hotel

Now, it is called "The Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park". At the time of my visit, it was undergoing major renovations and reconstruction. It is now supposed to be a restaurant/ coffee shop and a venue for events like wedding receptions, baptisms and conferences.

Despite the presence of mortals in it hollowed halls and chambers--some students rehearsing for what seemed like a stage drama performance, and us, travel bloggers--I found the place very, very lonely.

Diplomat Hotel

At noontime, it was sunny but chilly and was very inviting for some quiet "me-time"! But this feeling of loneliness did not escape me. The wind hummed and leaves and pine needles rustled in harmony with this feeling of loneliness. This feeling crept inside that made my head throbbed more until it was no longer bearable that I had to get out to focus instead on the exteriors--and take some fresh air.

Diplomat Hotel

While I felt better outside, the dense feeling did not spare me. The gardens are as lonely as the interiors--not because of the near absence of people in the place. Occasional murmurs and laughter filled the place and mixed with the gentle humming of the wind and rustling of pine needles, but still loneliness enveloped the building and its surroundings.

Be that as it may, I still find the place beautiful. It is the highest point within Baguio City (aside, of course, from the nearby Mount Cabuyao in Tuba, Benguet), that one can literally enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. I can't say if there are ghosts in this place. I just find it lonely, that's all.

Diplomat Hotel

By the way, my headache was not brought by any supernatural cause. I just lacked sleep, felt physically drained, and suffering from fatigue due to long hauls. A paracetamol tablet cured it.

If I have more chances to visit again, I would visit this place for some quiet time...over a cup of coffee. Wanna join?

See more photos at Baguio City | Diplomat Hotel

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27 October 2013

Baclayon Church Retrospection

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Baclayon Church retrospection

In was in August 14, 2004 when I first set my foot inside Baclayon Church. It was part of a side trip after work. Even with a limited memory capacity (32MB) of my first point and shoot camera, I was able to take some photos of the church.

Having captivated by the beauty of Bohol, I visited Baclayon again in summer of 2005 with my family for a vacation. However, luck was not on my side. My hard disk crashed and lost all my photos about that trip to Bohol. It would have been great for my two rascals to look back and reminisce those times they enjoyed the days under the sun.

I made a promise to myself that I should do a re-shoot of the church when I have the chance to go back to Bohol again. In the coming years, I have frequented Bohol due to work, but we were merely passers by and did not have the chance to really take some time to visit it again.

In January 2013, I had the chance to visit Bohol on a family holiday, and I made it a point to have Baclayon Church included in our itinerary. I had to forgo the museum tour which would not allow photography, but, instead lingered on the church grounds to take photos of the church.

Bohol's Baclayon Church

It was raining and it was not really a perfect day for photography, but I had to make do with the uncooperative weather. I had a feeling it would take a long time before I would be able to see it again, and capture it in my lenses. Having a water resistant camera (Olympus OMD), I braved the rains. I silently said a prayer for the rain to subside so I can photograph the church well, and it turned out that my prayer was answered. The rain turned into just drizzles in the middle of my shoot, and just before it was time for me to photograph the interiors.

Bohol's Baclayon Church

Bohol's Baclayon Church

Bohol's Baclayon Church

Seeing Baclayon Church in its full glory is a privilege on my part. Inside this age-old structure speaks of how Boholanos love their Catholic faith that was nurtured in many centuries. Walking along its aisle and sacristy literally brings you back in time. Its thick and sturdy walls held together by whites of millions of eggs as mortar back in the day are silent witnesses to both joyous and painful moments of its parishioners and pilgrims. Boholanos' efforts to preserve and take pride in their heritage as a people and as a Church is, as we say, incomparable.

Bohol's Baclayon Church

Built in 1596 by the Jesuits, Baclayon Church or the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. The 7.2 earthquake on October 15, 2013 destroyed its outer facade (the church has inner and outer facade) and the bell tower.

The temblor that brought the outer facade and the bell tower down pains a lot of travelers and the faithful. I am not spared of this pain. But I believe in the resiliency of Bol-anons. Their strong faith in God does not easily crumble with this centuries-old church. I just wish and pray that it would be rebuilt and restored in its full glory.

Padayon, Bohol!


See more photos at: Bohol | Baclayon Church

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21 September 2013

Visiting Sri Krishna Matha of Udupi

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Sri Krishna matha

When I thought it was just another day at a temple, I was proven wrong. I thought I have had enough of Hindu temples and structures. I never imagined I was in for a treat.

Sri Krishna Matha of Udupi is more colorful than the temples I have visited earlier in Chitradurga, Dharmasthala, and Bahubali monolith.

Sri Krishna Matha - Udupi
Brass sculptures of Sri Krishna

Here, I had my my elephant blessing! Remember, I was wondering how an elephant chariot looks like when they are paraded around town during the Paryaya festival? Then, I got to see how the huge and jaw-dropping elephant chariots come alive with all their colorful embellishments. Although I have not witnessed the Paryaya  that was held last January 18, 2012 and will be held again after two years, that means in 2014, it was still a delightful experience seeing those elephant chariots come alive, though sans the elephants and pilgrims pulling them. Be that as it may, it was just an awesome piece of Hindi faith and culture to behold!

Sri Krishna Matha - Udupi
The adorned elephant chariot

Just like any temple, Sri Krishna Matha in Udupi is a thriving "walled city". It is complete with amenities like lodging for pilgrims, stores selling basic necessities and objects of faith and worship. As a remembrance from this trip, I bought myself a tiny brass elephant. It was well carved and I now I realize I should have bought a larger piece, instead. But I was saving my Rupees for some silk scarves in Mysore and cotton kurta in Bangalore. No regrets though. At least I bought a memento for this trip.

Sri Krishna Matha - Udupi

We only had a little less than an hour to roam around, take photos, and buy some stuff before we would proceed to Mangalore for the last educational trip of the day.

In this short jaunt, there were two things that simply struck me: the elephant chariots in their full glory, and the golden chariot which one can only see by peeping though a room secured with grilled fence that even photographing it would be difficult. Good thing, I had a smaller camera and I was able to see through a bit.

Sri Krishna Matha - Udupi
The golden chariot secured behind grills.

Overall, this side trip capped the eventful day around Udupi.

Fore more photos of Sri Krishna, please visit:  Sri Krishna Matha in Flickr.

This is the 4th leg of my
Please come back for more stories while exploring and learning about the State of Karnataka in India.

View Dharmasthala-Udupi-Malpe Beach in a larger map

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08 September 2013

Connecting to work and loved ones while on the road

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When traveling, whether on official business or personal trips, it is always my practice to inform work and my loved ones if I have reached my destination, if I am safe and they do not need to worry.

Communicating, for me is very important, especially if there are important client calls I have to make or just getting in touch at home. That is why I always carry with me my cellular phone, my work netbook, and my iPad. While we have monthly communication allowance, it is limited, especially when you need spend your call and text credits to client calls. While it would be okay to spend more on text or call credits, it is an instinct to save it for emergencies when you are far from the city where there is no internet connection.

When I went to Malaysia some years back, I found it hard to communicate while on the road. Texting home would cost me more than half a US dollar. While I could use web calls and webcam, it was still limited to PC-to-PC calls,. Although it had a call feature, you will be charged based on collect-call international rates. That would be just so costly. Face-to-face web calls can sometimes be too limiting, especially when you are not in your hotel room and somewhere in a restaurant and you need to reply right away.

Save for the new technology because communicating is better than 3-4 years ago, especially when you are on a travel abroad. We now have smart phones that can work like our netbooks and telephone at the same time. One just needs to download some apps that you can use for international calling, PC to phone calls, international texting and other free calling app that you can use in your phone, laptop or tablets if you have an internet connection through WiFi.

Whatever web application you are using, here are five (5) pointers one can follow while traveling. In general, always inform your loved ones or your colleagues, and take note of these:

  1. That your flight or your trip will push through, especially if there weather is not good. You would not want your loved ones or your colleagues to worry about your safety;
  2. When you are settled in your hotel. Yes, you are already grown up but your call will make your mother feel at ease. This would also make your boss feel relieved especially when you are going to conflict-affected areas, like me.
  3. When you are going on trekking or going away from the city, and that they need not worry if they will not receive a text or call from you because there might not be a strong cellular connection;
  4. Related to number 3, make it a point to inform that you are back to the city in the comfort of your hotel room;
  5. When you are extending travel, so as not to make your loved ones worry that you are not home at the day or time of your arrival. This would also be true when you are stranded, experiencing flight delays or cancellation.

Happy traveling!

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25 August 2013

Worry-free airport parking

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Birmingham Airport - multi-storey car park
Multi-storey carpark in Birmingham. Photo by Elliot Brown. Used under the Creative Commons. 

Preparing for your travel, either for business of for pleasure can be quire stressful. Going to the airport to catch your flight can also be that challenging. Waiting for cabs to bring you to the airport would also take a while, especially when you are located at the suburbs where taxi cabs come in trickles, unless you have a reliable on-call cab company that will bring you to your destination.

For a car-less traveller like me, I rely on taxi cabs, or sometimes, the company car to ferry me to the airport. As a solution to this, I have already a steady contact of at least 1 taxi cab that I usually contact a day before my travel. This gives me peace of mind that I can reach the airport before the check in counters close.

This would not be a problem if you have a car that you can use if you leave at 2 o'clock in the morning to catch your early moning flight. Parking near ariports would allow you to travel and worry not about your car if it is parked at the airport parking for one or two days.

In Metro Manila, this can be quite a problem in the past years. Save for the airport authorities that allow overnight parking already with a minimal fee of P50.00 or a little more than a dollar. However, the parking spaces available at the airports are open, and your car can be exposed to the elements, especially true during monsoon season.

Nonetheless, there are already private car parking companies operating and offering secured parking near the airport. This comes with a chauffeured airport transfer services to from the airport terminal. This hassle free parking service in the Philippines is relatively new. In fact, one car parking building can only accommodate 200 cars at a time. This is way below the standards of other international car parking that can be found abroad. In Houston, for example, there are available 31,000 airport parking spaces near the Houston airport.

Airport parking in Birmingham is worry-free as you can book online and choose your car parking slot. Parking is available for a short and medium stay at best deal prices. The 4 multi-layered parking buildings are even located to the airport that you can walk your way to the terminal. If you are a bit in a hurry going to the Birmingham airport, it also offers a “meet and greet” parking where you drive in to the airport terminal and a carpark chauffer will wait, and will drive and park the car for you. How is that for a hassle free parking?

And here’s wishing that the Philippines would have these kinds of airport parking free available soon!

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