My First Solo Travel: How to get to Vera Falls Solo

I woke up at around 6 am ready to start earlier for I plan to get to Vera falls on my own. There are no clear instructions from bloggers on how to get there alone since most of them travelled in groups. After reading a map, asking locals, and doing it myself, this is how you can get to Vera falls from Legazpi.

1. Get to the main road (Rizal Road) and ride a jeepney to the “grand terminal” where vans wait for passengers to different places in Bicol (8 Pesos)SAMSUNG CSC

2. Ride a Van bound for Tabaco (50 Pesos) and get off at the Tabaco terminal.

3. From there, you can either

  • hire a tricycle to take you to Comun Elementary School in Barangay Comun (150 pesos)
  • or take a Jeep bound for Polangui.

I was told that I could have asked for a lower price in the tricycle, around 100. It is also of course cheaper if you split it with friends. I didn’t try the jeep to Polangui because I only learned about it when I was already in Comun.

4. When you get off at Comun Elementary school, there will be lots of habal-habal (motorcycles) waiting to be hired. I was able to get one for 200 pesos. The kind driver took me to Vera falls, waited for me , and then took me back to the main road.

5. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Malinao, the way to the falls is breathtaking specially if you’re riding a motorcycle. You’ll see mountains, valleys, and rivers as the cool wind blows your face unending kisses. You’ll also have a better view of Mt. Mayon specially on the way back from the falls.

When you get to this bridge, you are near the entrance to the falls.

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6. You will know that you’ve reached the entrance to Vera falls when you see a paved parking area out of nowhere. You will have to get off the motorcycle and use the short flight of stairs down to the falls (around 170 steps). While walking, you’ll here the inviting sound of the falls which might excite you even more. Once you get to the waterfalls, Mang Boy (who you can also ask to take pictures of you) who takes care of the area will ask you to write your name in a log book with any amount of donation. Right now, donations are being gathered for the continuous construction of the stairs and the road to the falls. Most give 20 to 50 pesos, but I decided to give a hundred bucks to support the cause–the country needs our help in maintaining natural spots anyway.

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Plus, when you see the falls, the donation will be worth it.

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Lucky for me, I got the falls all to myself which allowed me to appreciate it even more. Solitude usually gives you better perspective, you know. I was really happy for a lot of reasons. First, I’m happy I found a way to get to the falls. Second, there’s that genuine happiness and contentment I felt when I took a dip and admired the beauty of the falls. It made me sing and almost tear up. I guess it’s because there was that fear of how to get to it since it was the first “unknown” in my itinerary, and when I saw the falls, the fear vanished in an instant. Lastly, but most importantly, the beauty of our country, of this world, is one of the reasons I believe in a Greater Being. I believe in coincidence, but I also believe in purpose, in order, in beauty.

Ironically, upon checking the meaning of Vera after my visit to the pristine falls, my experience held some truth to the word’s meaning–Vera is of Slavic origin meaning Faith.

So there. This is how I got to Vera falls on my own. It cost me around 508 pesos but was worth each centavo.

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My First Solo Trip: Bicolandia (Legazpi)

I can’t believe I pulled it off. I know it isn’t much of a feat, but for someone who panics a lot, feels helpless in a lot of situations, overthinks every bit of life, this solo adventure used to just be a scary thought. Now I don’t even remember why I’m scared.

I decided to backpack across Bicol, mainly because I wanted to travel and it was the cheapest flight I could find. I wanted to know what solo traveling meant. I have read a lot of posts on it and met people who have done it saying it is a great experience–something you must do at least once in your life. And so I did.

For weeks, I did my research. I read blogs, itineraries, websites of what to see, do, and eat in the Bicol Region or Bicolandia. I originally planned to go to Sorsogon, Legaspi, Caramoan, and Naga but realized five days isn’t  enough to  appreciate what each place has to offer. I decided to settle for Legaspi and Naga and find places in between. Thanks to these awesome bloggers, I was able to map out where I wanted to go.

Instead of making a comprehensive itinerary, I decided to list the places I want to visit with an estimate of how much time I can spend in each of them. I also took mental notes of how to get to each of them, keeping in mind that adjustments are to be expected.

And so my adventure begins.

On my way to Legazpi aboard a plane, I knew of two things I have to see from up the sky–Mt. Mayon and the chocolate hills of Albay–Pili hills. Fortunately, the guy next to me, Patrick, to whom I introduced my self, helped me spot these things. Unfortunately, my camera was in the stow away cabin so I wasn’t able to take photos. I ended up asking Patrick about food in Bicol and how to get to my first stop–Ligñon Hill.

I have three stops in mind for my half day in Legazpi– Lignon Hill, Cagsawa Ruins, and Embarcadero de Legazpi.

From the airport, I walked past the cabbies and vans offering rides for I read they are quite expensive. As Patrick advised, a tricycle would be the better option to Ligñon Hill. The short tricycle ride cost 50 pesos. The hill is actually close to the airport but is on the other side of the runway so anyone who wants to get there has to go around the runway to the foot of the hill.

The climb to the top of the hill is quite steep–a reason why a lot ride cars. In fact, even with cars, signs are posted advising motorists to drive only in the lower gears of primera and segunda. The entire climb is around 800 meters and depending on your pace (and fitness level) it can take you around ten to thirty minutes. As I entered the path to the hill, I paid an entrance fee of 20 pesos (25 for foreigners) and bought two bottles of water from a mobile store a little bit past the entrance.

The walk to the hill is entertaining–you’ll see a good sneak peak of the city view plus a lot of couples either sitting by the sides of the road enjoying the view or pushing each other to finish the walk.

After two stops and several couples, I reached the hill and had to pause and revel in the view.

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There are several things you can do on the hill– zipline, shop, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the view. The heat can really be scorching so bring your umbrella, hats, or shades.

From the foot of Lignon Hill you can ride a jeepney and ask to be dropped off at the Shell staion at the “Junction.” From there, walk to the market and ride another jeep to Daraga and ask to be dropped off at the Cagsawa Ruins. From the main road, take a short walk to the ruins or you can opt for an ATV (4×4) adventure. There are at least three companies in Legazpi offering this unique way of experiencing Mayon and one of them is the Bicol Adventure ATV which you can find near the ruins. There are several packages you can choose from but since I only have a few hours to spare I decided to take the Php 699 package which is an hour long ride to bring you a bit nearer to the volcano and then to the Cagsawa Ruins. There are other options such as riding to the lava wall or to Mayon itself.

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After around and hour of ATV and visiting the ruins of the Cagsawa church (which contrary to what a lot of teachers told us didn’t really get buried in lava), I headed back to Legazpi to see the lighthouse in Embarcadero de Legazpi. From where you got off the jeepney to the ruins, you can cross the street and ride a jeep to Legazpi. This will bring you directly to the plaza.

Embarcadero de Legazpi is a port with mall and a lighthouse. Since I got there past dusk, the port isn’t that alive as you might expect of any port and though it was still quite early (around 7:30 pm), stores were already closing. Nevertheless, I did appreciate the night view of the lighthouse but would suggest you visit it when the sun is still up.

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For dinner, I decided to check out Small Talk Cafe. It is a jeep away from the LCC mall nearest to the Embarcadero. Located at Dona Aurora St., it is a quaint restaurant that offers an array of authentic and infused Bicolano food. I had a mouth watering Adobong Manok sa Gata which I paired with garlic rice ( most restos in Bicol usually serve rice shaped like Mt. Mayon).

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If I wasn’t craving for rice from all the non-stop walking to explore Legazpi, I would have tried their Pinangat pasta which has great reviews from locals and tourists alike. Price ranges from 200 up, specially if you’re on your own. Most dishes are good for two or more, but since I was doing it solo, I ended up finishing the entire Adobo dish.

From there, I decided to walk to the Mayon Backpackers Inn where I spent the night. I got a bunk bed in a dorm room of six for 350 bucks. They have free Wi-fi in the lobby and a desktop computer you can use. They also have free coffee or tea for breakfast. You can also pick a book from their shelf and trade in yours. If you’re on a budget, this is a great place to stay. The downside, if you get a top bunk, the bed tends to be creaky so each move you make might disturb the one underneath. Also, if you have allergic rhinitis, you might want to pop an antihistamine as the pillows triggered my allergies.

The best part of the inn however is how you’ll enjoy the conversations with the people you’ll meet there. I met a Filipino from Baguio, a Westerner, and Robin and Tom from the United Kingdom. Robin told me about how he and Tom were backpacking across Asia, how they were traveling from Legazpi to Sorsogon, then to Masbate, and then to Aklan to catch the Ati-Atihan nefore they head back to Manila. We exchanged notes in traveling and talked more about the Philippines. They did mention Filipinos seem to be “extra” nice. I really wish I took a selfie with them as the first backpackers I met as a solo traveler (Here’s a shout out to Robin and Tom!). From then on, I took selfies with people I met across Bicol.

After checking the net for the next day’s route, I slept with so much excitement. So this is what it feels like to travel solo. Four days left!

Practicing Happiness

The most valuable lesson I learned from 2014--Choosing happiness needs practice.

And so I would like to choose happiness by expressing gratitude for all these ten people, places, things in my 2014.

1. The people I met in Yoga, Ultimate Frisbee, and Badminton. Everyone knows how far I’ve recovered from my breakup (haha) and meeting you guys helped a lot. Really, A LOT.

  • To the yogis, specially my teacher, Ms. Abbie, thanks for sharing inner peace with me. I will never forget the tears that day when I was able to do the headstand on my own after months of practice. I learned how patience and kindness can push you, nay, teach you to do things you never thought you can. Then there’s Ish’s harsh but amazing wisdom, Elie’s unwavering trust, Jeff’s snobbish/ highly focused discipline. Then the Daquil siblings, one saved my life in ways she can only imagine, the other showing me what not to become when I grow up (kidding!).
  • To the discheads, Laagan. I miss playing with you guys. I’m working on my knees for now but I will be back for the Summer League. I promise!
  • To the badminton crew; I’m so thankful I signed up in that FB page and met you guys, Bambi, Grace, Wamer.

2. Yoga, Ultimate Frisbee, Hip Hop Dancing, and Badminton. From headstands, to leagues, to crazy footwork and lunges, to corpse pose, to every movement (or absence).

3. Traveling. Again and again, I’m amazed what traveling does to me. Maybe it’s the nomad in me who seeks adventure, or the free spirit that makes me want more, learn more.

  • Singapore
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Bauang, La Union
  • Yacht Club, Subic

4. My roomie of 3.5 years, I know you miss me. Thanks for all the past-our-bedtime stories, the bitchy compassion, for everything. I’ll always be a friend no matter how many guys you meet. Haha! Seriously, thanks for all the life-lessons you’ve taught me vicariously.

5. Koro Stigmatino, for letting me still sing with you guys even when I sometimes go MIA with all the other things I’m doing.

6. Music, I can’t imagine my life without music: singing in the shower, walking in the MRT station while imagining my life’s a musical and doing that random shuffle I’m sure people who see find weird, reading notes, playing the piano.

  •  Dancing. I don’t know how it gives me peace, but connecting one step to another by feeling it rather than memorizing it feels ethereal to me. Then again, randomly dancing in my bedroom gives me that same feeling.
  •  Choreograpy. Teaching choreography to two choirs with one hiring me and helping them bag the third place in a national competition.Who would have though? What the heck am I doing? Who am I?

7. For having only an alarming borderline uric acid and cholesterol levels, which means I still have a chance to fix my effin eating habits.

8. My other firsts

  • First pride march! It was liberating even for an out gay dude like me. I met a lot of cool people and realized I only have an inkling of what diversity is.
  • Man of Honor! (I was like, whuuuuuut?!) I know the chance of me getting married is low, so being man of honor to my best friend was just crazy unbelievable! Thanks, Anna and Ron. I love you both!

9. For my family and learning that as we grow old roles are blurred and everyone just becomes human, which fore me means to love each other more despite everything.

10. And to you Big Guy Up There (yes, I’m consciously choosing a male persona). Beyond religion, I believe in the “greater scheme of things” even when people make me think You hate guys like me, I know your love is just beyond what any person (believer or not) can comprehend. Btw, thanks for sending me this super cool guy who doesn’t have Ben Affleck’s bod but has a super sexy heart.

There you have it, gratitude to start the year.

Happy New Year