Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: My Year in Pictures

This year has been a really amazing year for me as a lot of things happened in 2013 that are so overwhelming, I couldn't believe that I did all that myself. I thought I'll be having a tough one because I welcomed it with a bad start. But then, I thought to myself that I should just be the bigger person and should not let the bad things consume me to the point that I should just wish this year would end. So I bounced back, burned the bridges and let it just light my way to happiness which I am currently experiencing now. :)

So in summary, I've nursed a heartbreak, lost my job, lost a lot of weight, bounced back, got a new job, learned my 4th language, got a new car, made my business grew, met new people, traveled a lot, lot, and just traveled a whole lot more. Did I mention that enough? :)

Everyone knew that I just found bliss in traveling and I always say that becoming a traveler is my new found self which I intend to keep for the rest of my life. I've gone places this year and I'm always longing to see more. I've become fascinated with going somewhere, meeting new people, experiencing adventure to a whole new level and learning new things along the way. There's been a lot of firsts for me and I can't say I've seen it all, but I'm super happy with all the places I've been in!

So in review, I'd like to look back at what happened this year:

1. I've visited 7 beaches this year. One beach is definitely different from another and it's with the experience and the people you're with. 

Sunset at Anawangin Cove, Zambales.

Quezon Island, Alaminos, Pangasinan

Sunset at Burot Beach in Calatagan, Batangas. 

Alubijod Cove, Guimaras Island. First pristine beach I've seen. 

Cagbalete Island, Mauban Quezon, where we got stranded for two days. LOL.

Pink Beach, Great Sta. Cruz Island. My dream beach!

White Beach, Malamawi Island, Basilan

2. I'm no mountaineer, but I managed to climb 4 mountains this year! 

Mt. Pundaquit, Zambales

Mt. Natib in Orani, Bataan. The most challenging mountain I've ever climbed!

Mt. Manalmon, Sitio Madlum, San Miguel, Bulacan

Mt. Pulag, Bokod, Benguet. The highlight of my travels this year! I finally saw the sea of clouds!!!

3. I love waterfalls and seeing 11 of it this year is such an amazing experience!

Pasukulan Falls, Mt. Natib, Orani, Bataan. Oh you gave me the most epic cramps ever, but you're so beautiful, I didn't mind anyway.

7 Falls at Mambukal Resort, Bacolod

Merloquet Falls, Sibulao, Zamboanga City.

Cabunbata Falls, Isabela, Basilan

Tabiawan Falls, Isabela, Basilan

4. Just some random things here, for the first time in my llife, I...

...let go of my long locks and rocked a pixie haircut! I didn't know it was bagay for me, LOL.

..learned how to pitch a tent, then got drunk and sleep on the beach under the stars

 ..went caving at the Madlum Cave, where I learned there's a level of difficulty in each cave.

..crossed a monkey bridge at the Madlum River

..River crossing. I like the feeling of that cold rush of water.

..gone rock climbing (Mt. Natib.. this! I'd never imagined myself climbing that 80 degree rock assault!)

..explored Iloilo City and Guimaras all by myself.

..wore a bikini (cheers to summer! XD)

..rode a habal-habal ride

..learned how to surf

...seen the MassKara festival in Bacolod and danced like crazy kids in a street party.

..met strangers on Instagram and eventually became my best travel buddies! I'm glad I took the chance! :D

..and many other firsts that I've experienced this year! I feel super happy, blessed and thankful that He's always guiding me towards making everything happen this year. I am also thankful to all the new people I met this year, especially my travel buddies whom I just met on Instagram. Without them, all this wouldn't be possible or probably wouldn't be as fun as this. I also learned that it's never too late to get out of your comfort zone and start living your dream and besides, it's been fun and I intend to do it again next year! ;)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Exploring Merloquet Falls in Zamboanga City

I thought I've seen enough waterfalls this year, I'm happy that I capped it off by seeing the beautiful Merloquet Falls, located in Brgy. Sibulao at Vitali, Zamboanga City. I'm super thrilled! :D

See how captivating it is?

We were tired from our last trip at the Pink Beach, so we woke up a bit late and started our day an hour close to lunchtime. We went to the tourism office again at the Paseo del Mar to ask for a guide on how to go to Merloquet Falls. You see, going there is quite far, you need to take a bus for an hour and trek for about 15-30 minutes depending on your pace. The bus ride is about an hour so they suggested that we should've left early. However, we still pushed through and from the tourism office, we walked back downtown and rode a jeepney going to the bus station.

Buses going to Pagadian (photo by ezzydangerous)

To get to the Merloquet Falls, you must ride a bus going to Pagadian and alight Brgy. Vitali, which is marked by a small shrine accross a PNP station. When we got there, we registered our names first and unlike Santa Cruz Island, this place doesn't need an armed escort to guide you around. It's safe, the locals there will be the ones who will guide and take you to the falls.

After registering, we took a habal-habal going to the dropoff area where the trek is gonna start. My first habal-habal experience happened in Bacolod when we went to Mambukal Resort. I knew this was no different from that so I already expected the thrilling speed of our rider's motorcycle through bumpy roads and all. We haggled for the price of a roundtrip fare and settled with 50 per head/one way. It took us about 15 minutes to reach the dropoff and upon seeing the muddy trail and knowing how wobbly my knees are when it comes to trekking in mud, I knew I'd be walking barefoot to get through this trail.

The muddy trek starts here. (photo by ezzydangerous)

That's Anne, Neil and I walking on mud LOL (photo by ezzydangerous)

It was raining slightly when we got there so that's the cause of all of this mud. (photo by jepepips)

What are you doing there? (photo by ezzydangerous)

Anne and I walked barefoot, while the others just carried on with their trusty slippers, Jep seemed prepared coz he brought his trekking shoes. After the muddy trail, you need to go down 300 steps to get to the falls. It's pretty easy now at this point then on the last step, I could already hear and see the beauty that's gonna unravel before me.

The beautiful Merloquet Falls in Sibulao, Zamboanga City.

We had the place again for ourselves because we were the only people there. There is an entrance fee of 10 pesos and there are also cottages and grilling stations if you wanna cook something. Camping/staying overnight is allowed in the cottages too. The area is clean and well maintained by the locals there.

Team Zamboanga at Merloquet Falls!

There's just something about waterfalls that really catches my interest. I've seen many this year and I always feel relieved and happy at the same time when I finally get to dip into that cold water and feel the gush of water. You see, some waterfalls are not too accessible, compared to going to a beach. (well, for the ones I saw at least) I have to endure trekking and climb up/down big boulders of rocks and if I may add the possibility of falling/slipping/weakness my knees while doing so. So when I see one, I feel like, all the pain are so worth it. I began to humbly appreciate the hardship I went through just to see a hidden beauty.  

My love for waterfalls has just deepened when I saw the place and I was amazed at that rock formation that made the water seemed like a white curtain flowing on a laddered wall of rocks. I stared at that rock wall in front of me and marveled at how nature could carve such a beauty. It's such a beautiful sight to see.

The shallow stream beneath the falls is great for a quick dip if you want to rest your feet after enduring a muddy trek and descending from that flight of stairs. Or, better yet, pretend to float like what Jay and Je did. What a bunch of happy kids.

Someone just can't get enough of Merloquet Falls.

Big falls. Tiny me.

When I went up the falls I stayed on this flat rockbed and enjoyed the strong gush of water above me. That's another thing I love about it, you get a back massage!

Hydrotherapy, yeah!

Jay, Je and Anne went up on top of the waterfalls while Jep, Neil and I stayed behind. To get there, you need to go up that wall, guided by a thick rope as you make your way to the top. It's steep and the rain just made the rocks too slippery to walk on. I'm too weak to take an assault by now so I'd rather pass and enjoy the scene.

Hello Merloquet Falls, were on top of ya!

We took our late lunch there and just stayed for an hour before going home. We left at around 4PM, and the rider (who became the tour guide lol) told us that the steps counts up to 300 and the construction of the paved road above is on going for the convenience of tourists going to the falls.

I was also feeling lucky that day because I saw a beautiful sunset while on the bus way home. Thanks to @jepepips for the photo.

Ohhh so pretty!

I feel so happy that I was able to see Zamboanga's treasured Merloquet Falls this year. It's beautiful. It's enchanting and it's special because I get to see it with my friends who also share the same passion for traveling like I do. :) Zamboanga City has suffered enough negativity from all that war and chaos it went through, but knowing the beauty the place brings would be enough for the curious to still explore and take an adventure just like what we did. :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tickled Pink at the Great Santa Cruz Island

For the second part of our Zamboanga-Basilan adventure series, we went to Sta. Cruz Island and my dream of going to a pink beach just came true that weekend! You could imagine my joy when I saw it in person! 


I first learned about the famed pink beach when it was featured on Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho last year. Being in love with the color itself, I thought that someday I'm gonna visit this place...and here I am! Spending an entire day on the beach of my dreams! :) Okay so it happened on the 2nd day of our Zamboanga tour, my friends and I woke up early to get to the boat we arranged for a schedule that day. We went out as early as 6AM so we could still have time to go the market and buy our food because we're going to cook there. We also bought drinking water as there is no water source on the island.

From Chang-V we rode a jeepney again going to the market and after shopping, we walked for a short distance from the market to Paseo del Mar, where our reserved boat was waiting for us. BTW, a little trivia here, there are two islands--Great Sta. Cruz Island and Little Sta. Cruz Island. Travelers are off limits to the little island because that's where the navy guards are stationed so don't bother bugging your guide to take you there.

To go to the Great Sta.Cruz Island, you need to rent a boat for 1,000 pesos and it can hold a maximum of 10 people. If you're on a budget, you can ask the tourism office for scheduled trips with a different group so you can hitch a ride going there. We also paid a small terminal fee and we had an armed escort with us; when I say armed, a soldier with a rifle. The tourism office will never allow you to go to the island without one, it's for safety and security purposes. :)

See what I mean? 

The short ride just took us 10-15 minutes before reaching the island and we were the only ones there, aside from the souvenir vendors who I think lives there, we pretty much enjoyed the island all by ourselves.

Ohhh I'm super happy! The sand really is pink, especially on the shoreline, where sand meets the sea.

If you look closer you'll see the tiny bits of red Organ Pipe corals washed ashore, giving the sand its pinkish color.

We also got a chance to have a quick tour at the now restricted area of the Badjao Cemetery, where burials have been prohibited since 1975. I didn't take pictures in respect of the departed. 

For some reason, the sand at this part is finer than the shore where we took off from our boat. Almost like Boracay sand according to my friends. (I can't tell coz I haven't been there :D) You may also shop for souvenirs here in the island, they sell a variety of products from jewelries to ref magnets to key chains. 

This black coral branch looks interesting. Too bad I can't take it home.

We prepared our lunch on the island, they have grilling stations provided. If you need to change into dry clothes after swimming, there are changing rooms are available, but you can't take a bath though because there's no water. We had a scrumptious feast of seafood for lunch which we cooked there (except for the rice) using the available grilling stations. We found someone selling crabs for about 300 pesos and he even steamed it for us!

Beach food! :)

Aside from pigging ourselves out, my travel buddies posed gamely for a beach photoshoot. I am a photographer and I told them to trust me when I tell them pose for a "pa-hot" shot so I could picture them in good angles. From portraits to jumpshots, we took pictures till we got tired of it. Anyway, meet Team Zamboanga LOL.

Anne (traveladik on Instagram)

Je (ezzydangerous on Instagram)

Jay (gladjaytor on Instagram)

Jep (jepepips on Instagram)

Jumpshot! (That's Little Sta. Cruz island behind us)

Oh and I shouldn't forget my personal bodyguard, the Clone Trooper. LOL.

We left the island around 3pm as no one is allowed to stay before it gets dark and we were escorted by our armed guide until we reached the mainland. 

That boat full of guides and armed escorts makes you feel really safe in Sta. Cruz Island. Zamboanga really cares for the safety of their tourists. :)

Brat face. 
I don't wanna leave yet. -_-

I find my stay at the Pink Beach too short to enjoy my time there. I love beach camping and this was one of the beaches I'd love to pitch a tent on. However, I could only relish the  feeling of that pinkish sand rubbing between my toes, and that is something I'll never forget; I am so overwhelmed that I was able to go to my dream destination that day! :)