Throwback Thursday: Wagon Outing

I live in a town where a picturesque view consisting of a mountain and sea known as the “Sleeping Dinosaur” (photographed below) is but ordinary. Friends and acquaintances who visit this town actually look at me in disbelief when they hear this statement.

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But, what is not ordinary for me is the chance of experiencing what it’s like standing on a part of that mountain. Last month, my family decided to visit a small resort in sitio Wagon, Brgy. Macambol, Davao Oriental which I was told to be located somewhere at the back of that mountain. From the town proper, we traveled for about two hours before we reached the place. I thought, “Would you believe that this remote-like place actually has a resort?”. I mean, if tourists even the local ones speak of my hometown, they would immediately think about the white sand beach strip that is Dahican, the view deck to Sleeping Dinosaur, or Baywalk. This small resort, however, is something my town folks would regard as new and a go-to hangout site with far lesser people. This modest place can be booked exclusively as it is actually primarily made for families who want to just get together and chill.

DSC05862The water in the pool comes from a spring and flows out to the pond situated below it. The photo above was taken the morning after we arrived.
DSC05749This moon (yes, that’s a moon) displayed its grandeur to us when we came to the resort. My sister and I had a good deal of bonding time with few of my cousins as we enjoyed night swimming until we got tired and decided to continue our soaking sessions in the morning. Few of the highlights of the night include some sharing of an urban legend, sleeping in a huge tent inside a room, and realizing that my cousins have restless kind of sleeping habits. It seemed that I didn’t get any sleep that night because I’d been constantly awaken by their movements not mentioning the fact that I’m a night owl who regards going to bed at 11:00 p.m as still somewhat early.

My eyes were open when I saw the morning light from the window and when I caught a glimpse of yellow and orange rays, I told my sister and cousins we should see the sunrise. They gamely went out of our sleeping quarter immediately. I had to fix myself of course so I went outside few minutes behind from them. Despite the lack of sleep, I didn’t feel any regret in getting up early.

DSC05756The owner of the place said that there’s a trail leading down the hill although it was more of a cliff for me. I was hesitant to go down because: a) the path was not really cleared yet; b) the thought of climbing up again was not very enticing; and c) the view down there may not be worth the effort. Nonetheless, we still went down because my underage cousins already made their way there and we can’t just let them be there by themselves. Adult duties as they say! After few minutes of trying hard not to slide and roll over the hill, we were able to have a close contact to the sea.

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Sunrise is always breathtaking. Hands down to the Creator of the universe. Well done dude!

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So yeah, that’s the sea down there all lined with rocks. Yep, maybe we’ll just swim in the pool later.

Everyone knows that going down is easier than climbing up and that’s what we expected. Damn, I really need to get back to zumba for some cardio. I felt nauseated when I reached the resort brought by climbing the steps with nothing in my stomach. Next time, I’ll bring water and a bit of something to munch on when I wander on a cliff or hill again. I. Must. Remember. That!

So… the rest of the day was spent swimming, eating, and chatting with family. I think this year for me have been about reconnecting to my roots again. Had I not been assigned to my hometown for work, I doubt I would be able to visit that place with my relatives. When I were younger, I never thought of how blessed I am that I have an extended family. But today, you know what? I realized that although they’re not perfect, they’re pretty cool… and I live in a marvelous hometown! 😉

Tsinelas Festival 2014

Aside from “Be careful!” advice from concerned citizens whenever we travel, we also hear “Bring extra cash or clothes – just in case!” from them. When we were told that Gapan is going to celebrate Tsinelas Festival the day after we were supposed to leave the town, the advice came in handy. Although we were not able to decide quickly on whether we should stay or not, we thought that we should not miss the chance of being able to witness Tsinelas Festival.

So yeah, we stayed for another day in Gapan to see the Tsinelas Festival.

I wanted to share about a funny story on how we were able to find a place to sleep but I think it’s too personal. What I can say is that if you are not too choosy, there are actually quite a number of cheap places to stay overnight in Gapan.

Food Talk

When visiting a new place, food will always be an interesting piece. Since we were outside Manila, we asked the driver to take us to a cheap and decent eatery where vegetable is available. He took us to Sizzlers which is an apparently famous dining spot for a group of friends. When I got an order, I immediately had an assumption that folks in Nueva Ecija like their meal to be submerged in sauce. Just a thought though!

The Gapan Stroll

Tsinelas, by the way, is the local term for slippers. I can’t believe I didn’t say that at the beginning of this post. Anyway, we thought the festival would start at 8:00 because that’s what the driver said the night before. However, the main event was postponed to 2:00 pm so we had no choice but to kill time by strolling at their market and looking at the stalls displaying colorful and pretty pairs of footwear. We ended buying some of these footwear.

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Eat at Luz!

After buying and a little more walking, we decided to eat at Luz Restaurant. Boy, I loooove that restaurant. The price of the food is something you would usually see in other restaurants but they have a lot of staff which makes it almost impossible for you to get unnoticed. What is also strangely amusing about Luz Restaurant is the unlimited supply of drinking water. At Luz Restaurant, you will never be thirsty! Drink your water and in a few minutes, a staff will refill your glass. This would go on until you have finished eating.

???????????????????????????????The food was good, not exceptional but goooooood! Do you remember my assumption about their fondness for sauce? My lunch suggested that I might be right!

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Unlike my dinner in which the sauce overpowered the natural flavor of the vegetables, this dish tasted well despite the disproportionate ratio of sauce to meat.

The Slippers’ Festival

Though the fete is not as grand as the other famous festivals in the Philippines, I had fun with Tsinelas festival because of the people. The ones we interacted with were mostly light-hearted. They are in fact, few of the most blithesome folks I have come across in the entire nation so far. I also envy Nueva Ecija’s marching bands. Every barangay in that province seems to have a marching band which is so cool. I wish Davao has a marching band complete with brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments and dashing costumes worn by citizens from different ages and walks of life in every barangay too!

Enough with the talk already! Time for the pics!

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Throwback Thursday: Minalungao

It’s Thursday!!! That means it’s time for a Throwback Thursday post!

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In this blog, my throwback thursday posts will be mostly about my travel experiences. Monetarily speaking, I don’t actually have much but I always make sure that I set aside some of my moolah for travel. I am blessed to be born in a country with thousands of islands teeming with beautiful treasures and I am thankful for travelers who have inspired and shared their experiences and useful tips making these treasures accessible for enthusiasts like me. Just to be VERY clear, the treasures I am talking about are the rivers, falls, beaches (white, black, rocky, or pink), lakes, springs (hot or cold), mountains, volcanoes, caves, lagoons, forests, and yes — various man-made attractions or places of fun such as parks, bars, old buildings – whatever that tickles your fancy. “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”, as the country’s Department of Tourism say. If gold, silver, tons of money, luxury cars, and the like are the kinds of treasures you have in mind, go find the Philippines’ pork barrel holders and big-time thieves (We have the worlds’ smartest and most deceptive variety by the way) and you will be astounded. However, if you do not want go through so much hassle in searching, you can always go to our museums OR ask your super rich Filipino friends to show you their own display of fancy and extravagant possessions. 😉

But this post is about a national park located in Nueva Ecija. I owe my discovery of Minalungao National Park to various bloggers who shared their knowledge on what the place is; what to do there; how to get there; and how much money we should take. There is so much information that had been useful to me and my co-travelers in those blogs that I felt I should also make travel posts to do some sort of “paying-it-forward” posts to people who are also planning to travel. Therefore, this would be the beginning of the many throwback travel blog entries in this site. Please understand if I seem to forget telling you some details though as some posts may have happened a long time ago. My travel experience in Minalungao was the most recent gala I did with my classmate in my master’s degree and a schoolmate from college.

How did we get there?

We went to Cubao and looked for a bus terminal which have routes to Gapan, Nueva Ecija. We found a Baliwag bus but the available one was non-airconditioned so we transferred to the Golden Bee bus stationed near the Baliwag buses. There is no need for you to get in line to purchase bus tickets (unlike Victory Liner). You just have to get in the Golden Bee bus and sit in your desired places. The fare from Cubao to Gapan is P150 (SP). I think the travel time was a little more than two hours.

As soon as we dropped off at Bucana, Gapan, Nueva Ecija, there were tricycle drivers asking us if we were going to Minalungao. In our research, there are two options to get to Minalungao. First, there is the Gapan to Papaya (Gen. Tinio) to Minalungao route. Second, there is the Gapan to Minalungao route. Gapan is quite far from the Minalungao National Park and since we arrived there at about 11:00 am, we decided to choose the second option to save more time. It was agreed that we would pay the two-way trip including the driver’s waiting time for P700.

A little side-trip 

There are no stores that sell meals in the national park so the driver drove us to Jollibee so that my schoolmate could buy lunch. My classmate and I were talking about the old face and current face of Jollibee on our way there and as soon as I entered the fast food, the cheerful mascot of Jollibee greeted me with its big twinkling eyes, gleeful smile, and a high-five! What an earnest way to greet tourists! Way to go Nueva Ecija!

Minalungao

We arrived at Minalungao around lunch time. Entrance fee is P20/person and P30 for the tricycle. We immediately looked for a cottage and we were offered a P150 cottage where we took our lunch. There, we met our young tour guides who later accompanied us in our limestone trekking, spelunking, swimming, raft riding, and more than 2000-step hiking adventure.

This is what we primarily came for

This is what we primarily came for.

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The limestone trek is definitely not a walk in the park but any functional person can do it. You just have to be mindful of your steps.

The cave

10612722_10204239269849158_134005622912111856_nI’m not a fan of tight and dark spaces, let alone having bats over my head. But, I managed to survive so yahoo for me!

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Travelers who plan to visit Minalungao should bring flashlights so you can explore the cave without having to rely on other groups of tourists who were able to bring their own light. 🙂 After spelunking, we just went swimming under the scorching heat of the August sun. Then, we decided to experience riding a raft through the river by paying P100 to a rafter.

Our raft ride going to the thousand-step hike

Our raft ride going to the thousand-step hike

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The limestone trek is fun but a raft ride is also a must as it gives you different perspectives of the park.

The energy-and-fat-burning thousand-step hike

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The great thing about young tourist guides is that they are energetic and fun to be with. Our guides are relatively easy to be with and we had no problem exchanging jokes with them. The other group of tourists were also a cool bunch so even though the walk was incredibly tiring (partly because of our previous activities), the experience had been wonderful.

We managed to get and eat some fruits along the way. Tasty!

We managed to get and eat some fruits along the way. Tasty!

Walk! Walk! Walk!

Walk! Walk! Walk!

View from the top

View from the top

Finally!

Finally!

We were all sweaty after the hike and needed a bath so we paid P20/person for that. After that, we again took a seemingly infinite number of steps to the entrance of the national park since the tricycle could not make it there while we were in that vehicle. We were supposed to go straight to Manila but the driver told us that it was Tsinelas Festival in Gapan the next day. Did we stay in Gapan for the festival or decided to head home that day? Find out in my next post!