Snapshots: A Sunny Day In Boracay

Summer is here, and sand, sea, and sunshine are calling!

Picture taken in Boracay, Philippines, 2009

Summer Essentials!

1. Canon Powershot D10 - my very first underwater camera! I thought it was time I got one, considering I love to swim and to snorkel. I just bought mine and I actually haven't tried it out yet, but it'll be getting its first test run two weeks from now, when I go with my family to our annual beach trip.

2. iPod Nano - as you must've picked up from my last post, I'm a bit of a music junkie. I love making playlists for trips, because they help me remember not just moments, but also (and more importantly) certain feelings or random thoughts and observations that couldn't be captured in pictures or video.

3. A good book - I started reading Nick Hornby's "Slam" last year when we went on that junk boat cruise in Ha Long Bay, but I never got to finish it.Ever since I started working, I've gotten terribly behind on my reading, my pile of unread and unopened books getting higher and higher. I'd like to spend some quiet time reading books on my trips this summer.

4. Sunblock - This year, I've actually gotten into the habit of putting something with SPF on my face everyday, but it's even more important during the summer. My sunblock of choice is the Neutrogena Body Mist.

5. A pair of shades - I've never found a pair of aviator shades that fits me just right. Maybe this summer will be different. :)

6. Aquazorb towel - I was recently given this and I hear it works wonders because it's fast-absorbing and fast-drying. Apparently, even the smaller-sized ones can do the job of a normal-sized bath towel! Imagine all the luggage space you'll be able to save with it!

7. My trusty Lumix LX3 - Mine is turning a year old this summer! I've loved it ever since I bought it, and I don't think I'll be replacing it anytime soon. A very worthy investment, and I look forward to using it even more for some great pictures this summer.

8. A pair of flip flops - You probably all saw this one coming. I still love this relatively old pair of brown Havaianas that I've had for a while now, but maybe I should get a colorful pair to liven up my summer outfits this summer.

What are your summer essentials? :)

My Travel Soundtrack: The Summer Soundtrack Edition

Do you remember that scene in "The Beach", when Richard gets a view of THE Beach for the very first time, and it's beautiful and he's so amazed by what he's seeing, and Moby's "Porcelain" starts playing? That's probably one of my favorite movie moments ever. And ever since that movie, when I hear the song "Porcelain", I think of nothing but fine white sand and blue water.

Every travel moment should have a soundtrack, because music is a perfect companion when traveling - I'd even go as far as to say that the iPod is probably the second best thing to human travel buddies (so if you're ever traveling solo, you mustn't board your flight without one!).

The summer is a season for trips, trips, trips, so I thought I'd share a portion of my summer soundtrack in this post, with sixteen of my favorite summer songs. It was incredibly difficult to cut the list down to 16, as I had about 50 songs on my playlist - maybe I'll post the rest of the songs next year. For now, I hope you like these!

Also, what are your favorite summer songs? (I'm a music junkie, so please, I hope you can recommend some for me!)

1. "No Stopping Us" - Jason Mraz

Just a bright, happy song to cheer you up when you're on the road. Jason Mraz is made of pure awesome, and he has a lot of bright, happy songs which I love. Also try "Make It Mine" and his version of "Melt With You" from the "50 First Dates" soundtrack.

2. "Whoo! Alright - Yeah...Uh Huh" - The Rapture

This one totally screams "Pool Partay!" to me, which probably has to do with its music video:

3. "Romeo and Juliet" - Clazziquai Project

This is a new favorite, and quite frankly, I'm a little addicted to it! I've had this one on repeat on my iPod for a while now. It's from a KPop experimental group called Clazziquai Project. The vocals on this are awesome. More importantly, this song makes me want to wear a sundress and put flowers on my hair. That's how summer-y it is.

4. "Strawberry Swing" - Coldplay

5. "Insomnio" - Cafe Tacuba

Here's one from a road trip movie called "Y Tu Mama Tambien", the first of two on this list from that soundtrack.

6. "Kiss Kiss Kiss" - Ananda Project feat. Heather Johnson

From the Hed Kandi Beach House 04.03 compilation. This has been on my iPod for ages, and I still love it.

7. "Fallin' For You" - Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat's music in general reminds me of the summer, which is why I love her records. This one is a fave among many.

8. "Chasing Cars" - Snow Patrol

I put this on here mainly because this song reminds me of that time when my friends and I slept on the beach in Bantayan Island, Cebu on our last night there. It's one of my favorite memories from my travels so far.

9. "Waves" - Marjorie Fair

I first heard this song on some random compilation they were playing in a record store, and I thought it was lovely.

10. "We Give In Sometimes" - Up Dharma Down

"Sand and the sea, meet in between. Fire and ice, you and I..." I absolutely love this song and this band. If there's one song I'd like everyone who's read this post to listen to, it'd be this song, because it's from an awesome Filipino band that deserves global recognition (which they've already received, mind you - they were featured on Time Magazine once!). And check out the awesome video!

11. "Ocean In Your Eyes" - Smokey and Miho

This one's also from the "Y Tu Mama Tambien" soundtrack. Apparently the girl was from Cibo Matto, and the guy is from Beck! I had no idea.

12. "Better Together" - Jack Johnson

You knew there had to be a Jack Johnson song here somewhere, right?

13. "Put Your Records On" - Corinne Bailey Rae

This song is here because of the line that goes "Sipping tea at a bar by the roadside (just relax, just relax)."

14. "Here Comes The Sun" - The Beatles

I grew up watching black-and-white Beatles performances, and I remember having one of my very first little girl crushes on the very young Paul McCartney in those videos. I read somewhere that this song came to George Harrison as he was walking around the garden on a beautiful spring day. I think that if a beautiful spring day were a song, it really would sound like this.

15. "Summertime" - The Sundays

Probably one of the oldest songs on this list, and a timeless favorite for me. A long time ago, in another blog, I wrote this to describe it: "Catchy tune, interesting lyrics, totally feel-good - it's the perfect non-love song for the summer."

16. "Walkin' on Sunshine" - Katrina and the Waves

I was born in the 80's, but unfortunately, as I was too young, I have no memories of that decade. But I do remember discovering music from that time when I got a little older, and this one is definitely one of my favorites. It's just so fun to listen to! You can't not cheer up after listening to this song.

Everyone and their mother probably has a casette tape of this stashed somewhere so I won't be putting a link to the song here, but I am posting this video from one of my favorite books and movies, "High Fidelity", where a hilarious Jack Black plays "Walkin' on Sunshine" and just goes crazy. Happy summer everyone!

Summer 2010 in the Philippines: 5 Trip Suggestions from Filipina on Flip Flops

My college friends, Bert and Jen, on our graduation trip to Bantayan Island, Cebu, circa 2007.

Summer is here! In the Philippines, at least.

The heat is on, and sun, sand and sea are calling. So I thought I'd write about five trips you can take around the Philippines this summer - catch a sneak peak under the cut, and visit the blog every Saturday for a new post.

Also, I'll be running my very first contest on this blog this summer - watch out for the post that will announce it very soon, and I hope you all join!

Cagayan De Oro & Camiguin (with a side trip to Bukidnon)

Coron, Palawan

Road Trip to Pampanga

Anawangin Cove, Zambales

Dive N Trek, Anilao, Batangas

Snapshots: Three-Way Adobo in Pamana Restaurant, Tagaytay

There are three things I love most about the Philippines, in no particular order: the resilience and natural happiness of its people (a trait I find that I myself manifest - I'm a generally upbeat and happy person, which probably has a lot to do with my Type 7 - Enthusiast personality. And yes, it also has a lot to do with why I often digress from the point I'm writing about, branching off to random topics and rambling about them for a fair amount of time before I get back to my point...just like what I'm doing right now!); its stunning beaches and the sheer volume of them - there's just so many, thanks to our 7,000+ islands!; and finally, Filipino food.

Filipino food is soul food - comforting, nostalgic, and basically a general source of happiness. Filipino food reminds me of family - I shall never tire of my grandmother's cooking. Her afritada is the best, her morcon pretty much a legend in our hometown and is a staple dish during the annual fiesta, and I can probably live on her Filipino-style lasagna for days on end (I think I might have actually done that once during one of my holidays breaks when I was still in college). There's also my uncle's epic caldereta that's always served during the holidays or other family get-togethers - the secret ingredient, I think, are the olives he puts in it, but it's really a lot more than that. You could serve me the same exact dish with the same ingredients, cooked by a fancy chef, and I'd still prefer my uncle's own cooking, because it reminds me of home and family.

Anthony Bourdain seems to think that from a global perspective, Filipino Food is rather underrated (watch the episode he did in the Philippines, it showed a pretty decent representation of Filipino cuisine), and unfortunately, I kind of have to agree with him - you don't see a lot of Filipino food in cooking shows or travel shows, and I don't think there are a lot of Filipino restaurants outside of the Philippines, at least, not as much as there are Chinese or Vietnamese or Thai food places. So I thought I'd be a little patriotic and do my share of spreading the word on how awesome Filipino food is.

Over the holidays last year, my friends and I went on a road trip to Tagaytay where we had lunch at Pamana Restaurant, a family-owned joint that served Filipino cuisine made from secret family recipes handed down from generation to generation. We ordered a number of different dishes, but my favorite of the lot would have to be the three-way adobo - that is, adobo done three ways: chicken adobo, adobo spareribs, and adobo flakes. I already love adobo to begin with (and what Filipino doesn't?), but this dish definitely gets bonus points for creativity and variety.

This will be the last of my series of food posts for now, but I think I'll be writing more about our food trip to Pamana Restaurant soon. And I'll still probably have sporadic food posts every now and then as well, so I hope you look forward to those!

Pamana Restaurant is located along Aguinaldo Highway in Tagaytay, right beside Boutique Hotel.

Promo: Get A Free Helicopter Ride In Hawaii!

The folks at The Villas at Poipu Kai were kind enough to offer a special promotion for Filipina on Flip Flops readers! Check out the details below. Many thanks to Jake for this promotion.

Kauai From The Sky

Kauai is the oldest island in Hawaii. The greenery, cliffs, and beaches make it a natural film set for Hollywood. The scenery is inspiring and creates an experience not only good for making movies, but for a revitalizing vacation. You can hike, surf, or fly around the island during your trip. Today we are offering our readers a chance to fly around the island for free.

The Villas at Poipu Kai are giving you a free helicopter ride with any booking made in March*. If you’re planning a trip to the islands this year, don’t miss this intimate experience on the island of Kauai.

You will get to stay at The Villas at Poipu Kai - a 27 unit condominium resort located 5 minutes from Poipu Beach. The Villas have 3 or 4 bedroom options, making them ideal for a group of couples or families. They also include expansive lanais and living areas for games and eating. It is a great home base for your vacation in Kauai. Call 866-407-0249 to book your Villa before March 31st.

*Offer limited to one tour per six (6) night reservation or two tours per twelve (12) or more nights. Offer valid on new reservations made before March 31st, for travel anytime before November 15th.

Snapshots: Gelato at Lemon Cello, Senado Square, Macau

It was one of those serendipitous travel moments. On our second day in Macau, exploring Senado Square, my friends and I found ourselves wandering along a tiny alley that was slightly less crowded compared to everywhere else in the square. It was just after lunchtime, and it was intensely hot out (this coming from me, a resident of a tropical country, who spent many a summer day of her teen years playing tennis under the blazing heat of the tropical sun. I kid you not when I say the heat was near unbearable that day), but luckily, we found salvation in a tiny, hole-in-the-wall shop that sold gelato called Lemon Cello.

I'm a sucker for well-lit, dainty little shops, and Lemon Cello was definitely that kind of store. All the pretty colors of the gelato flavors on display totally distracted me from the unbearable heat (yes, I'm a kid like that, easily distracted by pretty things, and it doesn't take much to make me happy, really). One would think that it would've been terribly difficult to decide which flavor to choose, but surprisingly, I knew what I wanted that day - the lemon-flavored gelato, aptly called Lemon Cello. The store didn't have tables or chairs so my friends and I sat on a nearby bench after we made our purchase and enjoyed our gelato in the Macau heat, which didn't seem so bad after all.

Incidentally, this happened on the same day that I did my very first bungee jump in Macau Tower. And while the memory of throwing myself from a height of 233 meters I definitely won't soon forget, I think I will also always fondly remember the time I enjoyed a tiny cup of gelato on a random bench in a random alley in Senado Square a few hours after. That's the thing about traveling - it's not just the big travel moments you remember, but even the tiny, serendipitous moments in between are fun to look back on as well.

Lemon Cello -

Food Trips: Korean Food at Minato, Ortigas

I said in a previous entry that I would write a full post about our Korean food trip in Ortigas a few weeks back, so here goes!

Minato is a Korean restaurant along Escriva Drive which is part of this entire lot of Korean establishments - you won't miss it, the handful of signs in Hangul are a dead giveaway (but in case you need more landmarks, it's the joint of establishments immediately beside Millenia Tower). My friends and I went to college in UA&P, which is around the area, so we were pretty familiar with the place.

Speaking of friends, meet Mabelle and Edell, who got me into the crazy fun that is KPop (it all started when we went to Hong Kong, but that's for a whole other blog post):

You've seen this one before:


Even better: kimchi pancake! They give them for free at Minato, but sometimes, you just have to remind the waitresses to serve you some.

A few of the million side dishes they served with the main food...

Korean barbecue. You wrap the lettuce around the meat and put the red sauce and a bunch of other stuff, as desired.

Pineapple for dessert! But we were really so full from everything else, we didn't get to eat much of it.

We ordered japchae too, which was really really good, and it must've been so good that I forgot to take a picture...we also had a bottle of soju, and that was pretty damn good too, so I also don't have a picture (haha). Also, after dinner we had Melona ice cream from the Korean convenience store across Minato, which was really creamy and delicious!

We spent a little over PhP400 per person for the whole meal, which I think was a pretty fair price considering how much we ate and how good the food was. I'm not familiar with a lot of Korean places in Manila, but from what we experienced and what I've heard from other people, Minato is probably one of the best places to have authentic Korean food in the city, so it's definitely worth a visit.

Snapshots: Kimchi in the City - Minato, Ortigas Center

I was sifting through my travel pictures and realized that I haven't posted any of the shots I've taken of food. From Filipino street food to some really delicious-looking desserts and a whole bunch of other stuff, I have quite a handful of food shots that I probably ought to include in this blog. After all, traveling isn't nearly as fun without the food adventures. So I'm starting my "Food Trips" category with this picture, which I took a few weeks back.

My last trip outside of Manila was to Cebu last January, and ever since,I've spent all of my weekends in the city. With such a situation I've learned a rather important lesson - when you can't go on trips, go on food trips! (Okay, that was kind of lame, but I can't think of anything else to write at the moment. Hehe). One Saturday a few weekends back, I went with two friends to a Korean restaurant in the Ortigas area called Minato, which was recommended by another friend. I've recently become fascinated with Korean culture (okay, to be perfectly honest, it's not exactly Korean culture, but Korean Pop culture, or KPop. To people I know, they'll probably think it's a bit uncharacteristic of me, but you must understand - they've got so many pretty boys out there, I couldn't help it! And they all sing and dance so well too! *sigh*) and my two friends, Mabelle and Edell, have been into Korean stuff since we were in college, so we were bound to end up trying out Korean food. I'll devote a full post to our Korean food trip soon, but for now, suffice to say that we had a pretty delicious meal that night - the kimchi in that picture didn't stand a chance (the kimchi pancake in the background was pretty damn good too, and it was free!).

...And now I'm craving for some japchae. Damn.

Snapshots: Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia

One of my favorite pictures from our trip to Cambodia last year.

A Guide to Laiya, San Juan, Batangas | Part 1: General Information & Getting There

I've been getting a lot of visitors to this blog looking for information about Laiya, San Juan, Batangas, so I thought I'd compile a (hopefully) comprehensive guide to this wonderful seaside town in the south of Luzon. I grew up in Batangas and have plenty of memories from spontaneous family trips to the beaches of Laiya on random Saturdays, so the place is pretty special to me.

I'll start this off with some basic (and admittedly boring) information about the place, and a few pictures (so that this entry isn't completely blah).

Located on the southeastern tip of Batangas, Laiya, San Juan is a relatively little-known beach destination, at least compared to the more popular areas of Anilao and Nasugbu, which are also in the province of Batangas.

Its serene and beautiful beaches, as well as its proximity to Manila, make Laiya an ideal weekend getaway for city dwellers. To date, a handful of beach resorts can be found in the area, as well as a number of private beach communities that are still under development.

Location and other Navigational information:

Info from - click on the above image to visit the site for waypoint data and other vicinity information on Laiya, San Juan, Batangas.

Getting There (taken from the La Luz Beach Resort site, with some revisions)

For Private Vehicles:

1. Take South Super Highway to the end and get out at exit 50A that leads to Batangas, Lucena and Legaspi. (It is 39 kilometers from Magallanes to the end of the South Super Highway). This is also the exit for Calamba.

2. Upon exiting (Calamba), drive straight ahead to the Star Toll entrance. The drive is approximately 20 minutes or about 6.5 kilometers. Look for the Batangas Expressway entrance (STAR Toll), which leads to Batangas City. The sign is very visible and the entrance is on the right side after the First Philippine Industrial Park.

3. Drive 33 kilometers on the Star Toll way (STAR) and take the San Jose-Ibaan Exit (the 4th exit, it is also after the Lipa exit). After exiting, turn left and drive 2.5 kilometers. You will reach an intersection with a sign pointing to Rosario, at this point please turn left at this intersection. After turning left, the Municipal Hall of Ibaan will be on your right while a church will be on your left. After passing the church on your left you will reach a forked road. Turn right at the road sign pointing to San Juan. Drive 8 kilometers along this road to Rosario town proper. Upon reaching the Rosario town proper, there is a Jollibee outlet at your left. Drive past the Jollibee Rosario outlet and the South Star drug store outlet. This road leads all the way to San Juan town proper, which is approximately 23 kilometers away. You will pass a sign for the Batangas Racing Circuit along the way. Please veer left at this point.

4. Once in the town of San Juan, make a right after the Municipal Hall (you'll see a Petron Gasoline Station, a Frank’s burger Stall and a Dunkin Donut Store right before the Municipal Hall). Take a right on the corner where you'll see numerous placards and signs posted of the different Laiya resorts. Most of the beach resorts in Laiya are already along this long road, but it will still take you a good 20-30 minutes drive further down the road before you get to the resorts.

For Public Transportation:

Via Candelaria

1. Take a bus from Manila to Lucena (Jackliner, Tritran, BLTB, Jam, etc) but get off at the Town of Candelaria. (Approximately 2 hours)
2. Get off at Chow King right after the town proper of Candelaria.
3. Go to the nearest intersection, which is about 10 meters and take a jeep to the town of San Juan, Batangas. (Approximately 30 minutes)
4. Get off at the San Juan Town Market and take a jeep to Barrio Hugom which will pass through most of the resorts in Laiya, or get a tricycle to take you to the resort of your choice.

Via Lipa City

1. Take a bus from Manila to Lipa City (Jackliner, Tritran, BLTB, Jam, Alps, etc.) (Approximately 1.5 hours)
2. Get off at Bus Terminal near McDonalds, Jollibee, and Shakey’s.
3. Take a tricycle to the jeep terminal located at the City Market (approximately 10 minutes)
4. Take a jeep bound for San Juan, Batangas. (Approximately 45 minutes)
5. Get off at the San Juan Town Market and take a jeep to Barrio Hugom which will pass through most of the resorts in Laiya, or get a tricycle to take you to the resort of your choice.

Snapshots: AJ Hackett Macau Tower

Indeed, why live on the edge when you can jump right off it?

Last year on our trip to Macau and Hong Kong, I sucked it up, prayed all the prayers I knew while I cussed all the cuss words I knew (yes, fear can make you contradict yourself), entrusted my life to the hands of the very dependable AJ Hackett Macau Tower crew, and did my very first bungee jump. It was an exhilarating, and I know I say this often (thanks to Barney Stinson), but it was seriously a legendary experience.

It was my first bungee jump, and I would go to great lengths to make sure it wouldn't be my last. New Zealand, anyone? You'll have to give me some time though - I have to save up first.

Snapshots: Vendors En Route To Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

My previous "Snapshots" post was giving me a bit of yuppie guilt so I thought I'd share one of the most "real" photos I've ever taken in my trips. This one is from when we were on a bus en route from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Talk about in-your-face marketing. We were luckier than the people in the van because we were in a closed, air-conditioned bus, somewhat protected from the onslaught of a million sales pitches, although we didn't escape all of them - I distinctly remember being offered an adorable baby through the window. And while I didn't pull an Angelina Jolie and currently there is no mohawked Maddox living in my tiny flat here in Manila, I couldn't help but feel a little pang of guilt at what we saw. It was one of those harsh realities you'll be hard pressed not to notice if you travel (and especially if you actually live) in a developing country.

Nevertheless, I'll be forever amazed and inspired by people who live in situations like this, and someday I hope I'll be able to help them make their lives a little better, a little easier.

I hope that baby's doing well.
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