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Mayon Volcano Tour

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One of the many things you can do in Bicol and one that is highly recommended is the Mayon Volcano Tour in an All-Terrain Vehicle or ATV.

Mayon Volcano is the most active volcano in our country but it is also one of the most beautiful, popular for its perfect cone shape.


My family ready for our ATV adventure

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Bicol Family Road Trip

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Bicol, Albay in particular, is our mom's province. Although she didn't grow up there, our grandmother did. You can say that we have roots in Bicol so this was some sort of a homecoming for all of us. This trip is one of our mom's wishes granted, to see her mom's province once more. Her last visit was so long ago she has little recollection of it.

And for us, this trip is one to tick off our own bucket list - to see the majestic Mayon Volcano.


Majestic Perfect Cone Mayon Volcano, Albay, Philippines
photo credit

August is the wettest month in our country and although it didn't rain much while we were in Bicol, it was always cloudy even early in the morning. They said the best time to see Mayon Volcano is in the morning at sunrise, between 6 to 8 am. However not always guaranteed, it is ideal and preferably when it is clear and the weather is good. The photo above was taken by my good friend and famous blogger Doc Gelo when he visited Bicol last November. Beautiful, isn't it?

So did we see Mayon Volcano?

Unfortunately, we didn't. It was all covered with clouds throughout our stay. Instead of getting disappointed, we focused on other places worth seeing and things worth doing while in Bicol and we were surprised at how much fun we had.


Perfect Cone Volcano (pun intended)

Transportation, Route and Travel Time to Bicol

We rented a 15-seater van which my brother-in-law and my husband drove alternately. Travel time is more or less 12 hours per route. Quite a long journey but if you love long drives, it shouldn't be a problem.

Our route going to Albay is Pampanga - Malolos - Cabuyao - Sto Tomas Batangas - Lucena - Naga - Albay

My sister and her family started their journey from their place in Pampanga. They went to pick up mom and the rest of us on the way. Then we drove all the way to Lucena in Quezon for a short visit and dinner at a friends house before heading to our final destination.

The road to Bicol is a treacherous route, seasoned travelers are used to it but quite scary for first timers like us.  It is a two-way road with barely any lights in most parts and with many huge trucks and buses traveling at night.


Gateway to Bicolandia



Our route to Bicol


On our way back, I didn't pay much attention to the route we took. I put on the google map and let my brother-in-law and Ferald drove us back home to Bulacan. The only thing I dread the most was the part where we had to pass some sharp curves in a winding road on the side of the mountain (bitukang manok) for a shorter route. Other than that, I only checked the map once in a while as I try to stay up and awake to accompany them the whole time.

Accommodation in Bicol

We didn't book a hotel in advance. It was an off-peak season (it was in August) and the rates were low. My siblings were sure we would get a room at a good price at that time of the year.


Patio De Cagsawa-Family Room

We stayed in an air-conditioned family room - Kubo style (nipa hut) at Patio De Cagsawa-a vacation suite/garden resort just beside the Cagsawa Ruins Park. Check in was quick and casual, nothing fancy. The family room was big enough to accommodate us all, there were 13 of us including the kids. It has seven wooden double beds with comfortable mattresses. The room is equipt with an old-style TV, two small tables, and 2 electric fans. The ensuite toilet and bath were clean with a  functioning water heater. Clean towels and toiletries were also provided. They have an adult swimming pool and kids pool too. They also allowed us to park the van in the compound right outside our room.

Things to do in Bicol 

This is basically a list of the things we did in Bicol. Bicol is big, consist of 6 provinces hence the term Bicolandia. Three days is nothing if you want to see all of Bicol. I think I would need at least a week in we decide to come back one day.

Naga, Camarines Sur

After a long night on the road, we arrived in Naga at 6:22 am. Our first stop was Nuestra Señora De Peña De Francia Church.


Nuestra Señora De Peña De Francia Church

The morning mass just ended. We waited until all parishioners emptied the church before we went inside. We prayed and thanked God for a safe journey.


Interior of  Nuestra Señora De Peña De Francia 

Mom got a bit of emotional having to set foot in her mother's province again. She lost her mom when she was 18 so she's got mixed emotions. I guess she was overwhelmed but I was happy that she made it this far and it made her happy to be in this place.


Mom reading the marker of Nuestra Señora De Peña De Francia Church

From Naga, it was another three-hour drive to Albay. We had breakfast first and then we're back on the road.

Beautiful scenery of mountains, vast rice fields, rivers, and laidback country living. It was amazing. Coming from a city like Dubai (UAE) and living here for the last 15 years, we only see so much of greenery once a year, so imagine our excitement.


If you must know, there are five distinct mountains in Bicol region, one of it is Mt. Iriga in the city of Iriga. It can easily be mistaken (which we have and we thought we were close) as Mayon Volcano but don't be fooled, you will only spot Mayon Volcano once you reached somewhere around Polanqui. Mt. Iriga is nothing compared to the size of Mayon Volcano.

Cagsawa Ruins, Albay

We arrived in Cagsawa Ruins Park at 11:37 am. When we saw that there is no chance to see the Mayon Volcano because it was really cloudy, we excitedly explored the park instead. When you are this far away from home, there is no room to cry over spilled milk.

Here are some of the photos we've taken while checking out the ruins of this 16th-century church.



Family photo in front of Cagsawa Church Belfry


Lanna and Erin's jump shot in front of Cagsawa Church Belfry



Lanna with Mayon Volcano partly covered in clouds


Mom, Benjo, and Ferald at Cagsawa Ruins

For lunch, my brother ordered some bulalo soup and laing at the carinderia inside the park and we ate it together with our packed lunch.


Picnic at Cagsawa Ruins Park

When lunch was over, we went to search for our home for the night. We were offered a huge family room at Patio De Cagsawa located just right next to the park itself. We checked in, cleaned up, take some rest and prepared for dinner.

Legazpi Baywalk

Dinner was at Rockport Cottage at Legazpi Baywalk.


Group photo at Legazpi Baywalk after dinner


Legazpi Baywalk at night


Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church



Daraga Church, Albay, Bicol

People from Cagsawa feared another eruption of Mayon Volcano hence they established a settlement in Daraga. They requested permission from the Spanish government to establish a new community and church south of Cagsawa.Their request was granted and the present day church of Daraga was built.


Inside Daraga Church

Peña Family


Roque Family


Dela Cruz's in front of Daraga Church


ATV Adventure at Black Lava Trail

We aren't an adventurous family if we will not try the ATV Adventure at 2006 Black Lava Trail. It is an activity you never want to miss when you are in Bicol. Kuya Jonathan, my sister's husband, managed to get us a good deal for this activity using his good looks and haggling skills. Well, mainly the haggling skills because our contact person is male. 

2006 Black Lava Trail is a three-hour ATV adventure over 21 kilometers of solidified lava, back and forth from our hotel passing thru Cagsawa trail, barangays Budiao, Matnog and Mabinit to the Lava Wall and back. I guarantee you this is a super fun and exhilarating activity. Worth all your bucks.

Bicolandia Outdoors Adventure Co. is right next to our hotel and they were the ones responsible for this unforgettable experience. 

We woke up at 5:30 am, had breakfast and we were on our ATVs ready to go. I have loads of photos of this fun activity thus it deserves a separate post here. Here are just a few of our photos.




My family off to an ATV adventure in Bicol



Me, at 2006 Lava Wall

Ziplining

Anywhere you go in the Philippines, there is a zip line. We did it the first time in Palawan and then the second was in Batangas. There's also one here at the Lava wall and my mom and brother did it.

It would be difficult for mom to descend from the lava wall so instead of helping her come down one rock at a time, she chose to go down in style.




Now you know where I got my adventurous and thrill seeker attitude. And she's 68 by the way.

and last but not the least...

Food Trips

While on the road in search of a place to eat lunch, we saw Lets Pinangat. It was full of diners so we are sure the food they serve is good. We parked our van and troop to the restaurant.

Bicol is famous for its spicy and rich in coconut milk dishes however my culinary knowledge of Bicolano food is limited to Laing (taro leaves and pork simmered in coconut milk) and Bicol express (pork meat with loads of green and red chili simmered in coconut milk).


a plate authentic Bicol express

We also tried Pinangat, the main ingredient of this dish are taro leaves and crabmeat, it can also be pork or shrimp inside. And of course, it is simmered in coconut cream/milk. Unlike Laing where taro leaves are shredded, the taro leaves in pinangat are kept whole and used as a wrapper for the crabmeat filling bound and tied using young coconut leaves before being simmered in coconut milk.


Pinangat

After a sumptuous lunch of Bicolano dishes, it was time to go home. We bought jars and packets of salted and honey roasted Pili nuts, a must when you are in Bicol. Best for pasalubong or snack on the road.

Coconut is one of Bicol regions primary agricultural products together with rice and corn hence it is evident in their cuisine. Coconut juice is very refreshing and the meat is also nice. Make sure to stop for some coconuts in any shack you'll find along the high way.


 Coconut Shack


Young coconut

Other dishes to try in Bicol is their pancit bato (stirfry noodles), sinapot (fried plantain banana), and the sili flavored ice cream. 

So that's about it guys. The sights, the sounds, and tastes of Bicol. I want to visit again but when it will be, I am not sure. One thing I am sure of is that we had a great time in Bicol.

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7 Good Reasons to Visit Truckers Summer Warehouse

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1. Truckers DXB summer edition is indoors. Teehee!!!!

Man! It is scorching hot outside and it will still take another couple of months to enjoy Dubai's outdoor life. But with Truckers DXB Summer Warehouse, you can enjoy summer at this hipster hangout and can forget at least for a while, Dubai's natural sauna outside. Truckers DXB Summer Warehouse is located in Hall 8 of the World Trade Center. It is big and there's plenty of space to move around. Open from 5th July to 2nd September 2017 taking place from Wednesdays to Saturdays every week for the whole summer. Entrance Fee is AED 10 for adults and free for kids age 12 and below.
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Palawan: Island Hopping at Honda Bay

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Our last minute activity in Puerto Princesa Palawan was a do-it-yourself island hopping tour at Honda Bay before we fly out in the evening. Three islands in two hours, is it possible? With only three hours to spare, we weren't sure island hopping is a good idea. Ferald and I were like, it's now or never, discussing the pros and cons over lunch at KaLui. We actually packed our beach essentials in the morning when we're leaving the hotel for the half day city tour just in case we decided to do it. In the end, we did it anyway because we'll never know when next time could be. #yolo

After our scrumptious lunch at KaLui, we headed to Honda Bay alight a tricycle with the same manong driver we hired when we went for firefly watching the day before. Color coded tricycles are the most common form of transportation you can hire in the city if you're not on a package tour.

More than half an hour later, we reached the wharf. It was around 2:00 pm.

We hurriedly register at the port counter, paid the fees, and rented a boat operated by two boatmen for 1300 pesos. Rates are fixed and all are the same even with different boat operators as it was set and approved by the municipal government.

We were told that we need to get back by 4:00 pm. Three island for two hours, is it possible? The answer is a big fat yes. Allow me show you how we did it.

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Palawan: Art & Food at KaLui Puerto Princesa

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Tired and hungry from our half day Puerto Princesa city tour, we requested our driver and tour guide to drop us at KaLui where we have a lunch reservation.

I've been trying to book at this restaurant since we arrived in the city but I only got a confirmed booking on our third day. The same day we are flying back to Manila in the evening so no way we could come for dinner. When the reservation staff told me there's an available table for lunch, I immediately confirmed. I promised myself not to leave Puerto Princesa without dining in this restaurant which was highly recommended by our friends. People who have been in this restaurant will tell you that your trip to Puerto Princesa is never complete without dining at KaLui. And so we did and it was truly amazing.


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Palawan: Puerto Princesa City Tour

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When you are visiting Puerto Princesa Palawan, a city tour is highly recommended.

A half day city tour is usually included in tour packages offered by travel agencies and their hotel partners costing about 600 pesos per person although you can also do it yourself if you'd like. What's good in taking a package tour is that you will be sitting in an air-conditioned van, have a licensed driver and tour guide to take you around and entrance fees and permits are included. This is recommended especially if it is the first time you are visiting Palawan and/or your time is very limited.

Ours was included in the package and we went on a city tour on our 3rd and last day in Palawan. Pick up time was at 8:00 am from Hotel Casitas De Az Pension where we are staying. It was a shared tour with a couple from Germany but for some reason, they couldn't join the tour so by chance, it suddenly became an exclusive guided tour for me and my family, without any extra cost.

We went as planned and our driver and tour guide showed us the city and the places he is most proud of. It was a total four-hour sightseeing tour starting from the ones farthest from the city center.

Crocodile Farm (Palawan Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Center)
Mitra's Ranch
Baker's Hill
Plaza Cuartel
Puerto Princesa Cathedral
Puerto Princesa Bay Walk
MCA Market Mall Pasalubong Center

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Thai Food for Iftar? Lemongrass Thai Restaurant Please!

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While I already blogged about a few interesting places for iftar just recently, I think I may have just one more up my sleeve.

One more place perfect for breaking your fast and enjoying an iftar meal with family and friends. They may not serve you your traditional iftar dishes but they serve fantastic and authentic Thai food.

If you ask me if I would like Thai food for iftar? My answer would be a big fat YES! Actually, you know what, I can eat Thai food any time of day. Who doesn't love Thai food anyways? You just have to know where the gems are hidden like this one right here.


I am talking about Lemongrass Thai Restaurant.

It is a casual dining restaurant located on the ground floor of Bu Haleeba Building, Oud Metha next to Lamcy Plaza with another branch in Al Ghurair Center in Dubai and 3 more branches in Abu Dhabi.

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Ramadan in UAE 2017: 20 Iftar and Suhoor That's Worth A Try

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Ramadan Kareem! or Ramadan Mubarak! That's how we greet our Muslim friends and colleagues during the holy month. Also in this season, you will hear a lot about two things, Iftar and Suhoor. Those are the two main meals of our Muslim brothers and sisters in a day during Ramadan.

Suhūr is an Islamic term referring to the meal consumed early in the morning before fasting, before dawn during or even outside the Islamic month of Ramadan. The meal is eaten before fajr prayer.

On the other handIftar is the evening meal when they end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. Muslims break their fast at the time of the call to prayer for the evening prayer. It is also a time when families gather on one table to share a meal.

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Street Food Fiesta Every Wednesday at Movenpick Hotel Bur Dubai

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When asked what I miss the most about my home country, my common reply is the food. Authentic dishes I grew up with. The ones my parents cook and those found and sold on the streets while I was growing up while studying high school in Bulacan and university in Manila before moving to Dubai way back in 2002. In fact, when we went for vacation last year, I took Ferald where I used to go for my daily dose of street eats. We ate isaw, pork barbecue, fish balls, kikiam, and balut. We also ate binatog and chicharon.
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Dusit Thani Hotel Dubai's Impressive Friday Brunch

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Ferald and I were invited to a Friday Brunch by our good friend Doc Gelo to join him celebrate his 10th-year anniversary in blogging.

The venue, the 24th Floor of Dusit Thani Hotel Dubai where three of the hotel's finest restaurants joined together to create one impressive brunch offering. PAX ItalianBenjarong for Thai, and The Californian, their all-day dining restaurant for Arabic, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican and other international cuisines.

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Palawan: Firefly Watching at Iwahig and Dinner at Kinabuchs Bar & Grill

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photo credit
Fireflies are nature's indication of how good the ecosystem in a particular area is. It signifies a healthy natural environment. Although Puerto Princesa is a city, it remains to be about 75-80 percent forest hence the name "city in a forest"

While growing up in our province, I used to catch fireflies at night whenever I see one. My husband shares the same childhood experience.

The mention of fireflies in the Filipino romantic TV series Dolce Amore is how my kids came to know about this pretty little insects. Growing up here in the desert, our kids never had the same experience as we have. We wanted them to experience it too so when I was planning our trip to Palawan last year, I included firefly watching to our itinerary.

Once we've reach Puerto Princesa, I called Mangrove Eco Tourism & Wildlife Park to book our visit. Booking ahead of your visit is necessary especially during peak season as it gets quite full easily. We went in August so it was off-peak but I still called to make sure we can be accommodated.

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Palawan: Family Visit to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

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My bucket list used to be a long list of things that I wanted to do. Things that I don't know when I can fulfill and whether I can fulfill so I decided to just delete it.

Of course, I change my mind and so I wrote another one. A shorter one this time with fewer things in it. It does not include the trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River anymore because I got to tick it off last year when we went to Palawan. It was the highlight of our last year's vacation. I guess it is on everybody's bucket list.

Our second day in Palawan was spent going on a paddleboat cruising down the river surrounded by a lush mangrove forest and a hike up the mountain before zipping across the sea on a zip line into an islet off the coast of Sabang. Although both were just a side trip, it was both enjoyable and a must do when you visit the island.

The main reason though for this family trip was to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonders of Nature - the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

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Creekside Dubai

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As much as we love visiting new and futuristic project locations like the Dubai Water Canal and Dubai Creek Harbour, we also love Bastakiya, Meena Bazaar, and the Old Dubai Creek. These places remain to be some of our favorite places in Old Dubai. If you want to know more about Dubai's tradition, architecture,  heritage and culture, these are the right places to visit.

It was one rainy afternoon in March (I know it is odd to say it was still raining in March in Dubai but we had a bit of a crazy weather lately) that I found myself dragging my family to visit the creek in old Dubai again.

Well not really raining, we only had overcast skies and a bit of drizzle.
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American Friday Brunch at Original Wings & Rings Dubai

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I have not been to Original Wings & Rings in a while but it seems nothing has changed since the last time I was here. It remains to be that relaxed sports bar with large TV screens and floor to ceiling glass windows I used to know.

We arrived around 1 pm last Friday with a group of young adults also heading for the restaurant. Naturally, they were asked at the reception to present their IDs and while they produce their IDs, the receptionist asks for my name to confirm my reservation and showed us to a table at the non-smoking side of the restaurant.

I used to be asked for my ID as well when I was younger and it feels strange but now that I am a grown up with my own kids, seeing these young adults head for a bar that serves alcohol, I cannot agree more with the establishment. I think it is a good standard practice.


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Max's Restaurant New Menu

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Max's Restaurant, our favorite authentic Filipino restaurant here in Dubai, has recently launched a new menu.


The new addition to their ever-growing menu of Filipino dishes varies from beef, chicken, and seafood dishes as well as some addition to desserts with a new take on its presentation plus a couple of new refreshments.

I missed the launch but we were invited to sample the new dishes and had a taste of these new offerings from Max's Restaurant in Bur Dubai.

Max's Restaurant New Menu

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Dubai Creek Harbour Promenade

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Dubai Creek Harbour Promenade, also known as Rise DCH is one of the newest outdoor entertainments in Dubai we've visited recently. This project by property giant Emaar sits adjacent to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, an asset to the project which they promised to keep untouched and protected.

Dubai Creek Harbour will be both a financially viable and ecologically responsible city, built with future generations in mind, using every innovation to minimize its environmental impact. This world-class development will offer spectacular views of the creek and Dubai skyline-Emaar

and by that, they mean this.


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The Art of Brunch at Movenpick Hotel & Apartments Bur Dubai

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Our brunch experience at the Art of Brunch at Fountain Restaurant, Movenpick Hotel & Apartments Bur Dubai was nothing short of grand. It was stellar. Definitely one to repeat over and over again.


Location and Ambiance

Movenpick Hotel & Apartments Bur Dubai is one easy hotel to locate. If you are taking a cab, just tell them it is opposite of American Hospital and Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai and the driver can easily take you there. If using the metro, the closest metro would be Oud Metha metro station, part of the Green Line, but you still need to take a cab to take you to the hotel, about a five-minute drive. For those driving, finding a parking was a breeze. We could have asked for valet but the husband was in the mood of finding his own.

The weather was glorious outside that day! Surprisingly, it was also all bright and sunny inside the hotel.

It was all thanks to the high glass ceiling overhead the hotel's lobby. It lets the light in. Highlighting the grand staircase carpeted in blue tones, where a big spread of desserts was laid beautifully at the bottom of it, serving as a focal point. I can't help to imagine my daughter coming down this grand staircase on her 18th birthday. I'm sure it's going to be a dramatic entrance.

It was Friday but the restaurant was already full when we arrived and the brunch service was in full swing.  It only tells me one thing. A restaurant full of people means good food and good service. The sound of that made me all the more excited to dine here.





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