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Beach Wedding in Batangas

March 21, 2012

Exactly last year (3.21.11), my cousin Ria exchanged vows with Web at a gorgeous all-white beach wedding in Laiya, Batangas. They’re now blessed with a beautiful and healthy baby named Alon (such a cool and fitting name!). Here’s a look back at some of the wedding snapshots I took during the event.

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Happy Anniversary guys! ♥

Coming Soon: Cam Norte!

March 19, 2012

Spent the weekend in Camarines Norte. Camped out at Mahabang Buhangin beach in Calaguas where there’s no electricity, no cellphone signal (except for a “phone booth” – a patch on top of a hill that barely detects a signal). Just perfect white sand, clear waters and nature at its best.

Other highlights: I got to try kayak-surfing against the waves in Mercedes, visited scenic waterfalls in Malatap, successfully surfed in Bagasbas Beach,  and took a dip in the Mampurog river. Still trying to beat a whole lot of article deadlines but will be posting about the different activities from this trip soon.

For updates and other photos, please like Travel Up on Facebook. Stay tuned!

A Seussical Birthday Celebration

March 8, 2012

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Last March 2 was Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel’s) birthday so I’m taking this opportunity to divert from travel and share another how-to-party guide from my nephew’s 2nd birthday party, which was Seuss-themed. My sister Lorie and I love themed parties and we always try to find an occasion to hold one. Since Seuss party merchandise is not available here in the Philippines, we had to make do with a lot of DIY stuff and a few lucky finds.

Read more…

Cruise Control

March 6, 2012

I’m on the cover of Cruising Magazine’s March 2012 issue!

The cover story by Julius Vicente features Lingayen, Pangasinan. Cover photo was taken in El Puerto Marina Resort by Rudy Liwanag. Lingayen was also previously featured in Manila Bulletin last year.

Photos from Pantabangan Dam

February 21, 2012

A few bare branches stick out from the dry earth, swaying with the ferocity of the breeze. The wind whips half-hearted waves and sends a spray onto the shores of the embankment of Pantabangan Dam where I stand. Loose earth crumbles beneath my feet and I walk back towards the gravel lined path near the center of the hill to admire the view.

Lake Pantabangan is said to be the largest man-made reservoir in the Philippines and one of the largest in Asia. On the horizon is one side of the Sierra Madre Mountains cradling the earth-filled embankment of the reservoir. Pantabangan Dam covers an area of 80,000 hectares. To put that in perspective, an international-sized rugby field is roughly one hectare, so the sheer size of the dam is daunting.

The picturesque lake was created by damming the Pampanga River. Now, its blue-green waters teem with largemouth bass, a species of black bass native to North America. Other species thrive in the lake including carp, snake murrel, and tilapia according to a loqal news report on the popularity of fishing in Pantabangan.

But it’s the bass that draw in fishing enthusiasts from different countries to come all the way to this otherwise sleepy town on the northern fringes of Nueva Ecija. Locals say that bass in Pantabangan Lake are particularly large, which has made it a favorite spot for foreign anglers to engage in sport fishing.

As I board one of the rickety wooden fishing boats, the sun casts its last rays on the landscape bathing everything in a dusky veil. Unfortunately, the bass don’t bite. It seems they’ve had their fill for the day. My boatman tells me that mornings are better for fishing. He used to live and work in Quezon City, but he prefers it in Pantabangan. He’s lived here for a little over a year now.

Mas tahimik dito,” he says, as he casts the fishing line further into the water. “Ang daming bisyo at gastos sa Manila. Dito, simple lang ang buhay.” I can’t help but agree. He recounts a trip with some foreign clients just the week before as we circle the lake a few more times. I hope to still catch some lone fish despite the late hour, but our fishing expedition is in vain. Soon we’ll be boarding the bus towards our next destination, but for the moment everything is serene and still.

The clouds blaze into a slow fire as the sun sets. It’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Engaging Trips

February 14, 2012

Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, I thought I had to make an attempt to post something romantic. So, instead of listing the most romantic places in the country or date places, I’m featuring a couple of friends who went the extra mile to take the next step in their relationship. Here are a few adventure-filled marriage proposals.

Proposal while Scuba Diving 

Rina and Don got engaged while scuba diving in Arthur’s Rock, a marine sanctuary in Mabini, Batangas last May 2010. To pull this underwater engagement off required careful planning, conspirators (everyone in their group including the driver) and precautionary measures to ensure that the ring would not be carried away by the current, which was really strong that day. Don brought a slate where he had written the proposal down and attached the ring to a carabiner to keep it safe.

(Screenshots grabbed since I can’t post the video  here due to Facebook’s privacy settings.)

“What happened was Don showed me one side of the slate first, which says “Mahal na mahal kita, Rina” then flipped it to the other side, which says “Pakasal na tayo.” Later I realized that technically, it wasn’t a question…but he said he put it that way because he wanted to make it a point to propose in Filipino. My “yes” was when he made the “OK” sign after putting the ring on my finger, and I made the “OK” sign back, and we were engaged!” — Rina

Proposal while Mountain Climbing

How romantic is it to get engaged on top of the world while watching the sunrise on a sea of clouds? Leo’s sweet proposal to Mithi last December 2011 was done during a mountain climbing trip to scenic Mt. Pulag, the highest mountain in Luzon with a peak of 2,922 meters above sea level. The borders between the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya meet at this mountain’s peak. Though it rained during their climb to the base camp on the first day, the sun came out during their hike to the summit for a picture-perfect proposal.

(Photos by Mithi’s friend Josh Villaruel grabbed from her FB page. Congrats!)

“It was our first time to climb Mt. Pulag together. Actually, I wanted to surprise him because it was his birthday so I even brought cake for him which the guide carried up, but he had the bigger surprise planned. After camping at the base camp the night before with a group of friends, we climbed to the summit early in the morning to watch the sunrise. While we were taking photos, he pointed to a spot where there weren’t any people and said we should go there, and I thought it was just to get a better angle for the photos. Then, he faced me and took out the ring hidden in his camera bag. I couldn’t hear everything he said because of the cold and my excitement. I just heard the beginning of what he said: “We’ve been together now for more than 5 years….” and then “Will you marry me?” — Mithi

Sweet! Congrats again!

Proposal while Motorcycling

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include my own engagement details here, but not a lot of people know that Art actually proposed to me during a motorcycle ride aboard Falkor, his Kawasaki Eliminator that we’ve shared a lot of great rides on. At the time, I wasn’t driving my own scooter yet and he invited me to go for a ride with him during one cold and windy night in October 2009, when he popped the question out of the blue. Since I had no means of getting back from where we were if he left me on the side of the road, I had no choice but to say yes.😉 He didn’t give me the ring until we got back to safe grounds since he was afraid one of us would drop it. We don’t have any photos of the actual moment, but here’s one of our pre-nup photos taken in Marilaque a few weeks before our wedding.

(Photo by Kix Tavora / Resonance Photography)

Know any other adventure-related marriage proposals here in the country? Share away!

Board to be Wild

February 7, 2012

While they’ve been around for awhile, board sports like surfing, sandboarding and stand-up paddleboarding are quickly gaining popularity here in the country. If you’re based in Manila, you don’t even have to book an expensive flight to another country to try these out. You can actually try all three board sports up North in Ilocos Norte, which I’ve found is a haven for some of the greatest outdoor adventures.


Surfing is the one of the oldest board sports that involves riding a board on the crest of a wave towards the shore. There are numerous surfing spots in the country, including La Union, Baler and the Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, which is one of the most picturesque spots I’ve tried surfing. Mike Oida of Kapuluan Vista Resort gave us a brief orientation on the basics of surfing.

For the first 30 minutes of our surf session, I just enjoyed the view from the lifeguard tower where I got a good view of the other people in our group attempting to surf. Some were born naturals and smoothly rode the waves like pros even on their first attempt. Others struggled a bit and swallowed some water before they were able to successfully ride the waves.

Ivan B. of IvantoTravel

I don’t know if it was just my imagination, but the waves seemed to be stronger when it was my turn to get on the board. I thought I’d be able to manage, as I’ve tried surfing before in La Union and was able to stand (at least long enough for a photo op), but the waves just kept me off-balance throughout my attempts .

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At one point, I almost collided with another companion, and we both hit the water, protecting our heads from the boards. It was all in good fun though and the thrill of trying to catch a good wave was exhausting yet exciting. I definitely want to go back for a longer surf session or maybe spend a week or more in Pagudpud.

Difficulty Level: 4/5. Though it’s not the easiest sport to learn, the more time you put into it, the better you can get. Seasoned surfers practice every day, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t stand on the board during your first lesson.

For surfboard rentals and surfing lessons, check out Kapuluan Vista Resort, Sito Baniaran, Barangay Baloi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Website:, E-mail:, FB Page:  Kapuluan Vista Resort Hotel and Restaurant


Sandboarding is a recreational board sport similar to snowboarding but it takes place on sand dunes rather than snow-covered hills. Sandboarding involves riding down a sand dune while standing with both feet strapped to a board, though some sandboarders use a board without bindings. There’s also the option to sit on the board and hold on to two handles to maintain one’s balance and just slide down.

Ever since sandboarding was introduced in Ilocos Norte a couple of years ago, this extreme sport has gained buzz among adrenaline junkies and travel/adventure circles heading up North. During our LN3 trip, we got to visit the Suba Sand Dunes just for a quick photo op. Good thing, I got to try sandboarding during LN2 last year.

Ida of

The boards used in sandboarding are usually made of laminated plywood with a formica or laminex base. The bottom of the board is waxed prior to a run to ensure that it glides down easily on the sand. Riders have to maintain their balance going down a steeply inclined dune.

The hill may not seem so high when you look at it from below, but once you step on the board and look down, fear sets in. However, sandboarding is amazingly fun and the ride down provides an instant adrenaline rush. The ride down is a blur and is over in seconds. This is a definite must-try for thrill-seekers!

Difficulty level: 3/5. No prior snowboarding or skateboarding experience is required to try out the sport and falling down on the sand is not painful at all. Most of the exercise here comes from climbing up the hill again carrying the board after cruising down.

For sandboarding, contact the LEAD Movementthe group that has pioneered sandboarding in Ilocos Norte. Laoag Eco-Adventure Development (LEAD) Movement Inc., Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. +63 (77) 772 0538, +63 (919) 873 5516, FB Page: Ilocos Sand Boarding


Stand-up paddleboarding or SUP is said to be an ancient form of surfing. I would describe it as kind of like rowing a kayak while maintaining your balance on top of a surfboard. Unlike the two earlier board sports mentioned here, paddleboarding is definitely more laid-back since it doesn’t involve the rush of trying to catch a wave or rushing down a hill at breakneck speeds.

Stand-up paddleboarding uses a board where the surfer stands and a paddle used to propel across the water. The sport benefits athletes with a strong ‘core’ workout. (Just look at Mike’s body in the photo below.) I’ve seen some surfers do this on the beach when the waters are calm, but we got to try it out for the first time at the historic Paoay Lake, just outside the Malacanang Ti Amianan.

I found that paddleboarding forces you to concentrate and focus your mind on the task at hand. It was a pretty gusty the day we tried it, so some of us got drifted by the winds towards the middle of the lake even if we were just supposed to go one short round so everyone could have a chance to try it out.

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Thankfully, Mike of KVR, who gave us our surfing lessons in Pagudpud, provided one-on-one instructions during our paddleboarding session. His instructions on how to use the paddle to turn, to lower knees in order to maintain balance, and “just paddle as hard as you can” guided me back to shore.

Difficulty Level: 1/5. Paddleboarding is very easy to learn compared to surfing or other board sports. Mike says women often master paddleboarding faster than men because of their lower center of gravity.

The Ilocos Norte provincial government is exploring stand-up paddleboarding in Paoay Lake National Park as part of its tourism master plan. They also plan to eventually offer kayaking and other watersports in the area. For inquiries, e-mail:,, FB Page: Paoay Kumakaway

Check out this video by Ivan Henares of Ivan About Town which contains clips of our surfing and paddleboarding sessions during the Lakbay Norte Media tour.

These activities were made possible through Lakbay Norte, a media familiarization tour of Northern Luzon organized by the North Philippine Visitors Bureau.