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.

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

A Noob Traveling in 2014–Indonesia

51 hours, 5 cities.

Indonesia capped off my international adventures for 2014. Some friends and I flew to Jakarta then to Yogyakarta. We only had the weekend and thus had to maximise our time and chose to prioritize Dieng in Central Java, Indonesia.

I was gastronomically happier in this particular trip compared to the last two countries I’ve visited which I guess is because Indonesian food is closer to home. Either that or I’m more aware and informed of what certain food names mean like Kropuk Putih is basically Kropek and Sate is essentially barbecue. And as this is the third country I’ve been to in the Indianized countries of Southeast Asia, I also now know how to handle the levels of spiciness.

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Sate

Our first stop was Jalan Malioboro–the famous shopping street in Indonesia. It has a lot of things that might be of interest to any traveler–from trinkets to batik, shoes to clothes, keychains to antics. It is a wonderful place to even just stroll in.

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After Marlioboro we were off to the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur. Though it didn’t give me the overwhelming feeling of the gradeur of Angkor Wat, Borobodur still is amazing. The intricacies of the walls, the details put in the relief panels, the geometric stupas (which I didn’t know usually  had something inside them) will make you curious and wonder of the history it contains.SAMSUNG CSC

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In Dieng, we stayed at a homestay near the base of Mt. Prau and started our ascent at around 3:30 in the morning. I was out of breath most of the climb as I haven’t trekked for years. Plus, I have been physically dormant months prior to this. I was probably the weakest climber in the group. Nonetheless, I was able to reach the peak and take this photo of the sunrise. Made me think of that moment I raced to Angkor Wat in Cambodia to chase after the sunrise. So far, I’ve chased two.
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In our descent, we took a wrong turn and got somewhat lost. Honestly, I felt panic.Then again my super cool experienced, traveler friends were all calm and were enjoying the view so I did too eventually. It was breathtaking. Walking along these terraces made me forget my anxiety in getting lost. Fortunately, we ended up in a small town on the other side of the mountain, opposite where we began our ascent. From there, SAMSUNG CSCThe last stop we visited was the Dieng Temple Complex where 8 temples are located (locals say there used to be 400 of these small temples). It is nice to walk from one temple to another in this complex. And since the average temeprature in Deinge ranges from 12-15 degrees celsius, the sun won’t feel scorching when you walk. Also, since Dieng is a place visited more often than Indonesians rather than foreigners, the place isn’t quite as saturated with people compared to other places I’ve been to in other countries.
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So there goes three countries for 2014. I never knew travelling would be this life-changing. It taught me so much of life. It exposes to discomfort and making comfortable in it (talk about almost missing the connecting flight from Jakarta to Manila because of a late plane, thanks Lion Air). Traveling also teaches you to talk to people while keeping in mind their culture and practices, your being a foreigner, while standing your ground or compromising when needed (talk about haggling a 800,000- Baht trip to the airport from Dieng). Respect, simply put.

There is so much I have yet to learn about life and traveling has been a great teacher this past year. I can’t wait to go to my next stop–this time solo!

A Noob Traveling in 2014–Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambdoia.The second of the first three countries I’ve ever been to in this quest of finding my self, healing, and growing. After Singapore, Cambodia was a relief from the modernity SG had. Cambodia was simple and laid-back. I felt it was a sincere place, an uncomplicated, modest one. Then of course its history tells us otherwise. When we discussed the Khmer Rouge in high school it didn’t mean much to me. It wasn’t until I had gone to Cambodia that I realized the magnitude of the mass genocide committed by this communist government. I also realized how history can show us relativity of time–that a genocide done in the 1970s might be decades ago but its effects on the nation 30 years later show us that when we talk of cultures and genrations, 30 years is nothing, that building and rebuilding a nation take centuries. It was this humbilng an experience Cambodia was for me. These looking back in history made me appreciate Cambodia more. In this first photo, we rode a tuk-tuk at 4:45 am to rush and witness the world famous sunrise view in Angkor Wat. It was worth it. Being the largest religious monument in the world, it was majestic and grand. I felt small walking in and around it. I can only imagine the history this place contains. 1476534_10152840852347300_4679877619326546910_n On our last day in Cambodia, I biked about 20 kilometers to visit some temples I wasn’t able to enter the day before. For a US dollar I rented a bike, borrowed hat, and packed some water, to experience part of Cambodia alone. It was a peaceful albeit tiring ride. I even met a Khmer school teacher who brought his students biking to visit the temples.

10409708_10152840852687300_8183931537556558830_nMy friends and I also found this nice, quaint restaurant New Leaf Book Cafe where you choose a book from their shelves to read as you wait or eat their scrumptious food; which I believe is reasonably priced (2- 8 USD) since part of their profit is invested in educational programs in the Siem Reap province, which, according to my friend who lived there, schools badly need. 10394787_10152840896472300_4135996607390409428_n I had a lot of good memories in Siem Reap, and one of those is this picture of the Khmer children I played a game with by the entrance of the temple Ta Prohm (where a scene from the first Tomb Raider movie was shot). The game was somewhat similar to the Philippines’ Piko. They were nice, warm kids. I wish I knew how to talk in Khmer. One thing was clear, I lost that game.10377016_10152840896437300_5414180457358462719_n My Cambodia trip was really meaningful. It was humbling for me because it gave me new lenses from which to perceive the battles our country has. It reminded me that each country has its own ghosts to deal with. These things made me want to learn more, get acquainted with more cultures, appreciate history more (and regret listening half-heartedly to my good social studies teacher in HS, Ms. Lazaro), and love traveling even more. In fact, two weeks after this trip, I booked a ticket for my next travel–Indonesia.

A Noob Traveling in 2014–Singapore

The travel bug can’t be any more real than it already is for me. This year I saved part of my meager salary minus the bills I have to pay living alone to finally travel outside the country. Thankfully, I was able to. Before I knew it, I traveled to three countries, met a lot of new people, saw a lot of new places, got acquainted with different cultures, learned so many things, and most importantly, found a different kind of peace–the kind that heals. For my first travel outside the country, I did it on my birthday, February first. I went to Singapore. As a modern city, it wasn’t surprising that what caught my eye were the patterns of structures, the well-defined lines, the precise angles and curves, the entire system of beams and arches.

Skylight at the National Museum of Singapore
A different kind of skylight in a teepee-like hut in the musuem/s foyer
The ceiling of the foyer of the National Museum of Singapore
adjacent street to the Peranakan Museum
banister of the National Museum of Singapore

It was amazing how everything in Singapura was organized. Trains arrived on the dot, cabbies gave exact travel time and the most efficient route, everything was just neat. What I liked most in Singapore however was the MacRitchie Nature Trail. It is a forest in the middle of the busy city of Singapore. I have always liked off beaten spots wherever I go as they provide tranquility of sorts, so this trail was top of my list. Finishing the trail will lead you to the steel bridge atop the forest overlooking the city. It was a nice, refreshing morning walk albeit doing with an empty tummy. treetop trail. SG I also loved walking around the city, minding the small details, appreciating every nook. I even found graffiti in one of the walls. Whatever was in the past started to make sense. Traveling started setting me free from things and people I allowed to hold me back. I never thought traveling would be this liberating. And then I went to Cambodia…

Goodbye, Facebook (For Now)

And so this is goodbye, my friend
That’s been a lot of years we spent
I came to you and you listened
Now it’s time that I, away be sent

I drag, I scroll, I look, I see
I sometimes wish I wasn’t me
With what is seen, so much is lost
With what is read, so much is cross

Time is dripping, time is wasting
An inner voice is strong in saying
You have to stop, you have to go
and live the life with what you do

Not what you see, not what you read
Not what they have, not what they read
Not what they like, not what you like
Not what seems real but what is real

And so if you must talk to me
Come and see me here and be
the thoughts I have the thoughts you have
let our voices see the light out of this box

update: After two weeks, I’m back in FB

Where I am Now

Right now, I’m working in a diner. Figuring out how I’ll ever meet my deadlines.

See, I’m co-writing a textbook while completing my review of related literature for an MA subject I asked for an incomplete in. At the same time, I’m preparing for a language proficiency exam in Spanish this November. I’m also preparing my best friend’s bridal shower as I am her maid (man) of honor. I never thought it would be this hard and exciting to organize such a party.

The latter is my priority. I love my job, But the other things required to keep it can sometimes be really taxing. I’m not complaining though. I know where I am right now.

Right now, I’m wondering if the academe is where I want to stay and where I want to devote my life to.

I sometimes feel academicians, intellectuals, tend to problematize everything while inadvertently alienating society whose conditions are supposedly the main reason why thinkers problematize anyway. What benefit will it be to a society who can’t even understand it? Outside the academe is reality where contexts defy and debunk theories and ideologies. Away from the center is where everyday issues exist, problems that are begging for solutions. On the other hand, being in the academe gives you a stronger vantage point from where to look at societal concerns. The academe places you in a position where you have a greater potential to affect change through teaching and conventions for instance. Then, you have research as an important aspect of the academe which situates you in the front line of knowledge assimilation.

I know anyone can affect change within and without the academe. Maybe it’s a matter of what works for an individual, where he finds contentment, productivity, and effectivity as an agent of thinking and change.

Well anyhow, for now I’m just happy eating my comfort food from Chix & Treats–chicken fingers with garlic sour cream dip.

20140906155634Happy Weekend!

Gooey

I love cheese.

Specially when you bake with it. It melts into this yellow, gooey goodness in pizzas ans pastas. I’ve even come to microwave Piattos topped with Chiz Whiz to get this same,  processes, gooey goodness.

Gooey goodness.

I like goo. It’s messy. Yet somehow it holds itself decently together. It’s charming that way, or annoying when you get some in your hair.

I guess I’ve been like goo since I was a kid. When things get really messy I somehow pull myself together.

So I’m pulling myself together again like what I’ll probably do whenever life hands me punches.

(As I write this in the mrt, the guy has just realized out loud that drinking less will save him money. So just now, he decided to stop drinking. Yey for him! Btw, this is also the day the MRT got derailed in EDSA Taft)

Well, welcome to my spot in this cyberworld of bloohblahs, musings. and overthinking.

Gooeymike 🙂