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There is a lot of misconception when it comes to the Philippines, and a lot of people don’t really know what this home country of mine is all about. Well, even as a Filipina, I must say that this is an obscure question with an elusive answer at best, because no one can really sum up a country in a short post. For starters, I have already described some of what you’re about to experience when you come to the Philippines here.

In this post, however, I’d like to provide you with some more specific information about my country. As someone who became well-traveled over the years (that’s my job after all), I learned that not every place is for everyone — the Philippines included. I met so many people that fell in love with the country after their first visit, but unfortunately I also know of people who didn’t find the Philippines so great. Read on to understand what exactly my country has to offer you, before you start planning your trip.
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The Philippines

» What are the main attractions?

The Philippines is known first and foremost for its breathtaking tropical islands and beaches – after all, it’s among the best in the world. Add some of the best diving spots worldwide (the Philippines being entirely situated in the Coral Triangle) and the Philippines is undoubtedly a tropical beach paradise. With that said, if you’re looking for a summer vacation, this is the place for you!

But of course, the beauty of the Philippines goes further than this with the abundance of other natural wonders like lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, volcanoes, and mountainous regions. Actually, the more you wander into the mountains and the less-traveled provinces, like Batanes and the Ifugao Province, the more you’re likely to feel the great cultural diversity of the Philippines. In fact, there are more than 175 ethnic groups and lots of foreign influences from the Spanish, American and Chinese.

The country is also rich when it comes to recent history (WWII in the Pacific), and remains from the Spanish colonial era. Sadly, the Philippines is no place for ancient history, as the colonial regime oppressed the locals and erased much of the culture. As painful as it is to admit, it also isn’t the place for ‘high culture’. It’s a developing country with somewhat of an identity crisis, and pop culture is prevalent, especially American. The cities are poor with bad infrastructure, with Manila (the capital) being one of the most devastated cities of Second World War. As such, the Philippines isn’t the best destination for urban tourism.
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» What are the most popular destinations?

This is always a question people ask before going on a trip to a foreign country. If you follow my travels you know that I do like to visit iconic sites in countries that I visit, but I also like to stray away from the high road and visit more authentic places. The Philippines is no different, and I advise both. Because transportation is rather slow, it’s time consuming and inconvenient for most of the time but it’s really up to the traveler himself to decide.

The main destinations that I feel everyone should visit are Palawan and Boracay. There is a unanimity that those are the two most beautiful destinations in the Philippines, and though this is a blanket statement, there is some truth to it. Both are extremely beautiful, with great infrastructure, and will cater to most tourists. The thing is, you can’t really go wrong with them.

Some other destinations should be included in your vacation too (if it’s long enough), and picking the rights ones can be very tricky and difficult. There is a huge lack of information about many destinations in the Philippines of which the transportation info is usually incorrect; to add, getting there can even be a hassle, and then once you get there, accommodation can be a risk. It might be okay and even an essential part of the trip for adventurous travelers, but to most it’s an annoyance. Therefore, you can minimize such rissk by going to relatively known destinations like Bohol and Cebu, by doing an in depth research prior to you arrival, and by booking a vacation package from a trustworthy travel agency.

In any case your travel agency will take care of — or that your research — should cover the following: weather, accommodation, transportation, your time, and budget. When it comes to the Philippines, accommodation and transportation can vary greatly, and the weather is very confusing if you don’t come from a tropical country. All of these aspects will be discussed below.
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» A land of never ending summer!

So you thought wrong… some say that technically there is no summer in the Philippines and that there are two seasons, the wet and dry seasons. Some say there is the hot season – “tag-init” from March to May, and to those of you who come from a country of pronounced seasons, summer doesn’t mean no rain.

But in the Philippines, it is actually more confusing than that because some areas have opposite climates, and some have no dry season at all. Most of Luzon and Palawan are dry during November to April, and wet during the rest of the year (winter is actually dry and cool – as in not freakily hot and moist, making it the best season to travel most places). Surprisingly, for the wet season in Palawan and Manila, it is actually the drier season of central and southeastern Philippines.

It makes sense then to refrain from visiting Palawan and to try more exotic destinations like Siargao (and even Bicol, especially if you’re planning to backpack). Some areas like Central Visayas doesn’t have pronounced seasons at all, thus enjoyable all over the year. With this, keeping an open mind is crucial because your fantasies should come second after the weather when dictating your itinerary.
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» Accommodation – how difficult can it be?

Finding a good place to stay in the Philippines is not so easy. More often than not, online information is very inaccurate even in the biggest websites. The rule of thumb is that many resorts, especially in less frequented destinations follow no international standard (maybe there is a local standard, who knows) and vary a lot from one another. It sometimes happens with hotels that define themselves as luxury accommodation, but this is rare. So be cautious when booking hotels in more exotic destinations.

Good travel blogs usually give an honest review, and you should rely on their recommendations, but it will demand some research on your side. As said above, a travel agency will help you with that if you don’t want or don’t have the time to investigate yourself. If you’re really picky, don’t even take the risk, use professional assistance!

The good side of the story is, compared to other countries, high-end accommodation is really inexpensive here. This is a good reason why you should consider having your honeymoon in the Philippines rather than in Bali (that I love!). It’s also worth considering pampering yourself and staying in finer resorts than you usually do, just because it’s a very good deal.
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» Transportation in the Philippines

…is really bad to say the least. It is very complicated, not user friendly, outdated, and slow. The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, making public transportation a hassle as is. On top of that, buses aren’t as easy to use like in other places in the world (take Thailand with a great bus system for comparison) — there’s just seemingly no organized system. The roads are old and narrow in many parts of the country and in the cities, traffic is really bad (with Manila being no.1).

Most people rely on jeepneys (the U.S. military inspired long vehicle that we take great pride in) which are cramped and small compared to western standards, and a tourist could never guess the route or know when to drop off (as there are no official stops). But if you insist, ask someone to assist you or try this website. The other popular ride is a trike or tricycle (a tuk-tuk equivalent) and in some remote places: habal-habal, meaning a motorcycle ride (with sometimes 3 people on one bike, and I’ve seen even more).

How will it affect the planning of your vacation? Well, not all destinations are as bad. The more central or touristy the place is, the easier it’s usually going to be to get there. There will also be more flights and better airports, more conventional public transportation, and faster ferries connecting it with nearby major ports. This is the case with Boracay, Bohol and Cebu, and recently joining this list is El Nido (with a new airport and fast craft to nearby Coron).

But if for example, you want to tour Banaue and Sagada or Ilocos, expect gruesomely long bus rides (like up to 12 hours long). If you want to get to Camiguin, there is just one daily flight and a slow fairy from Bohol, and a flight to Batanes is one of the most expensive internal flights in the Philippines. All in all, traveling off the beaten path means a sharp drop in transportation standards and higher flight rates so it helps to take note of that as early as now.
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» How much time do you have and what’s your budget?

To conclude, all of the things written above comes down to two key factors… If money is not an issue, you’ll be able to conveniently arrive in most destinations, and enjoy the best accommodation. If you do have a certain budget for your vacation, you’ll need to decide if some destinations are just too expensive to get to, and if a gamble on a suspicious 3-star hotel is worth risking your vacation for.

The same goes for how much time you allocated for your trip. I would say that for a short trip, stick to the basics and avoid surprises. Every unfamiliar adventure can take more time than you think, and there is no reason that you should waste 2 days commuting on a 2-week vacation. On a longer vacation or on a second (or third) visit though, I do like to experiment and visit some unique places that not many go to so it should be fine to do something similar.
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The Philippines

Just follow the guidelines of this post to minimize drawbacks in your vacation in the Philippines. It might seem that I wrote a negative review if the Philippines, but that’s not true, it’s just an honest one!

While admitting that there are a lot of things that don’t work very well in this country, it’s still an amazing place to visit, that make most of its visitors fall in love. So plan carefully, and enjoy your time in the Philippines.

How about you?

  • What do you think of the Philippines?
  • Would you like to travel here? Why or why not?
  • Or have you visited here before? How was it?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

The post Travel Guide for the First Time Tourists to the Philippines appeared first on I am Aileen.

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A northern beauty of the Philippines, Batanes is a group of islands filled with vast pasture lands, rolling hills, towering volcanoes, dramatic cliffs, and crystal-clear waters — its untouched beauty, as some would say, is proof of the local people’s (Ivatan’s) respect for the laws of nture.

However… its far distance from the mainland, the extravagant flights and sudden weather changes can all make the trip an impossible task. In fact, these have made the islands an elusive paradise in itself; but like a challenge, a lot of people would always aim to unravel it for themselves.

For those who were fortunate enough to visit Batanes, it’s a common thing to hear them say that the terrain is akin to that of New Zealand, Ireland, or the Scottish Highlands. I’ve only been to New Zealand and I do see the resemblance. As a matter of fact, I would often beam with pride whenever I hear or read these compliments — after all, Batanes is my beloved hometown. I am really proud to be a pure-blooded Ivatan, and I absolutely feel lucky that I was brought up in these magnificent islands right from when I was born and up until high school.

FACT = One “downside” of growing up in such an amazing place like this: I’m very hard to please when it comes to natural terrain. Example: When I visited Austria, Croatia and the northern part of New Zealand (as examples), most of the people around me were crying out praises when they saw the beaches, mountains, cliffs, and/or hills.

Me? I just stood there and thought to myself, “This is nice.” And that was it.

This is NOT to say that those places weren’t great — because they were! It just so happens that scenes like that were ‘normal’ to me; so in order to get a more exuberant reaction from me, it has to be far more incredible (Faroe Islands would be an example).

Naturally, as a local, a lot of you have been asking me for tips and top things to do in Batanes. When this was first asked of me, I was at a complete loss because I left the islands when it wasn’t popular yet as a tourist destination; hence, as an example, I didn’t know much about existing logistics and hotels because they didn’t exist as much before! (It was only recently that the islands became well-known nationwide).

Nevertheless, as of this year, that has changed because I had the chance to revisit my hometown after 10 long years! I learned more about the new infrastructures, tours, and so much more — it actually surprised me to see that my little hometown wasn’t exactly the same old simple home that I knew. Still and the same, I can assure you that no matter the changes, Batanes’ beauty will forever remain.

Now without further ado, let me give you an idea on the activities that you can do when you’re in these islands for, let’s say, 5 days! With the help of Iraya Travel & Tours — a local DOT-accredited Batanes tour company that I recommend and trust — I have mapped out the itinerary below. Otherwise, with their assistance, you can tweak it around depending on the length of your stay. Enjoy!

I’ve got some good news! With this code, you can get 15% off when booking with Iraya Travel & Tours*

*As Ive already mentioned, it’s a local tour operator, so I would highly recommend that you book with them in order to help the Ivatan community and economy.
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5 Days Itinerary in Batanes

» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE

Some quick and basic facts of Batanes before we go on…

  • Small and nearer to Taiwan than the Philippines. It is comprised of 10 islands but with only 3 inhabited ones, namely: Batan, Sabtang, & Itbayat — with Batan being the main island and the most populated one given its 6 districts (one of which is Basco, the provincial ‘capital’ in which I grew up in.)
  • Locals are called as “Ivatan”. Our exact origins are still untraced up till now and we have a total population of only about 17,000~, making us the smallest province in the country. Our language is also called as “Ivatan” which is regarded as unique to that of Tagalog, the main language in the Philippines; hence, Ivatan is not just merely a dialect but it’s now regarded as a unique language in itself.
  • Very low crime rates. In fact, there’s almost no crime at all which can be attributed to the Ivatan’s good nature as well as the non-existent poverty in the islands. As a child, the only main ‘criminals’ that I ever saw in my hometown were Taiwanese fishermen who were often caught at sea when they cross the borders of the Philippines to do illegal fishing, etc. For sure, Ivatans might just be one of the nicest and most trustworthy people you’ll ever meet in your travels! To prove this point, we have a couple of ‘honesty shops’ in the islands wherein nobody is attending the store: as a customer, you get the things you want to buy and then handle the payment yourself.
  • Experiences 4 seasons. It’s not an official thing, but technically, Batanes has very cold and chilly days from November to February, with the hottest months from March to May (with April as the driest). The rest of the months are often rainy and August is the month where we mostly experience typhoons — speaking of typhoons, we’re NOT really constantly battered by ill weather. Given our northernmost location, we’re just often used as a reference point for weather reports. Sure, we have our fair share of typhoons but unlike popular belief, it’s not too common.

When would be the best time to travel to Batanes? 
Dry season which would be from December to May. It’s the safest time to go if you don’t want to get stranded or have your flight cancelled/delayed because of bad weather.

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Where to get the best flight deals?
Batanes is primarily reached by air and travel time from Manila can take 1 to 2 hours depending on the airline. To date, given the size of Basco’s airport (which is small and can’t be extended because then the runway will either go inside the mountain or ruin some residential houses), there are only a few airlines that are in service:

  • Philippines Air (PAL Express): daily flights usually departing and arriving in the mornings
  • SkyJet Air: only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays usually  departing and arriving in the mornings
  • Wakay Air: daily flights usually departing and arriving in the mornings

Ticket prices are known for being expensive — it can range from Php 4,000 up to Php 15,000 (on average, it costs Php 7,000+).  If you’re on a budget, how then can you get cheaper flight deals?

    • Promos: There are regular seat sales that are being done by the above airlines and if you’re lucky, you can snag a roudntrip flight for just Php 500!
    • Tour Operators: Batanes Iraya Travel & Tours usually offers discounted ticket prices to and from Batanes, and if you notify them, they can even add you to their subscribers list so that you’re notified whenever there are promo fares (especially with SkyJet Air as they’re a partner of the airline). Plus, if you use my code AILEEN15 whenever you’re booking flights and/or tour packages, you can enjoy 15% off! (Conditions may apply).

From the airport, you can walk to the town proper to get to your hotel (it’s a really small town), otherwise you can hail tricycles there or arrange for a pick-up car beforehand.

Where to stay?
Top choices in Basco area would be…
Budget: Troy’s Lodge,  DDD Habitat Lodging House
Mid-Range: Midtown InnBatanes Seaside Lounge, or AirBnB
Luxury: Fundacion Pacita

*For more Batanes hotel choices and the best price or packaged deal, contact Batanes Iraya Travel & Tours. (Remember, mention my code ‘AILEEN15‘ when inquiring for prices and you can get 15% off on selected services and tours!).

How about money?
There are NO money exchange facilities in Batanes, but there are a few ATMs (Landbank and PNB). It’s also best to bring Philippines peso cash in advance, and don’t bother whipping out your credit card because there are no establishments in the islands either who accept it.

How to get around?
By jeepney. They journey around the island of Batan from 5:00AM to 5:00PM (you often just need to flag them down at certain areas). If in doubt, feel free to talk to a local.

By tricycle. We call them as “Batoda” and apart from taking you to and from near distances, they can also provide day rentals to help you explore the island. To go around the north of Batan, they customarily ask Php 1,000 and for the south, about Php 1,500. (In Sabtang, touring the whole island starts at a cost of Php 800).

By motorcycle or bike. You can rent a motorcycle starting at Php 500 a day (it can go up if you want a guide/driver, if you want a bigger motorbike, etc. and if you want per hour, it can be about Php 150 per hour). A simple bike would cost about Php 200 a day (or Php 25 per hour).

By car. If you’re coming with a group, it’s best to contact Batanes Iraya Travel & Tours so that they can arrange it all for you.

By boat. To get to the other inhabited islands of Sabtang and Itbayat, you will need to go through an exciting boat ride with our local boats called as ‘faluwa’. Roundtrip tickets to Sabtang and Itbayat costs about Php 400 each.

Helpful Ivatan phrases
Almost all Ivatans can understand and speak fluent English; but of course, it doesn’t hurt to use our language. We’ll be very impressed with you!

Hello: Dius! (when you arrive at someone’s house) / Kapian ka pa nu Dius!
How are you?: Ara ka mangu?
I am fine: Taytu aku a mapya.
Thank you: Dius mamahes!
You’re welcome: As kanimu pa
Yes: Owen
No: Umba
I don’t know: Katen

I’m sorry: Maypasinsya ka / Paypasinsyan mu yaken
How much?: Manyipira?
Can I join you?: Maparin machivan?
Goodbye: Avek dana / Mangay aku na


Wondering what Batanes food or Ivatan dishes that you must absolutely try?

Check out this blog post to find out: What & Where to Eat for the Best Ivatan Cuisine
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Now, before I begin with the itinerary guide, if in case you’re more of a visual person, you can already watch my video below to get a ‘peek’ into the adventures that you can do when in Batanes!

Exploring Batanes: Things to Do & See in this Northern Paradise of the Philippines (feat. Sabtang) - YouTube

» DAY #1 «

Below is what’s commonly referred to as “Batan North Tour” — as the name implies, you will venture through the top spots in the northern part of the main island of Batan.

I gotta say though… I couldn’t help giggling as Iraya Travel & Tours took me around because it was all a bit surreal — imagine, I was a true-blue local being toured around (where else but) in my own hometown! Anyhow, it was quite an experience and I surely saw Batan in a new light.

Do a Batan North Tour

◘◘ Mt. Carmel Chapel
Located at Sitio Tukon in Barangay Chanarian in Basco, this chapel is the most recently built worship house in Batanes and the only chapel adopted the stone house style.  Its prime position above the hills has made it a popular spot not only for weddings but also for tourists who are looking for Instagram-worthy shots.

◘◘ Fundacion Pacita
This is Batanes’ only luxury hotel and rightly so as it is nestled above a picturesque hill that has a grand view over the sea and the surrounding Batan terrain. Rest assured, you’re free to wander inside its premises even if you’re not a hotel guest. You can also visit its indoor museum where Pacita Abad’s works are found. Who is Pacita? She is an internationally known artist who was a full-blooded Ivatan and Fundacion Pacita was her former home when she was still alive.

◘◘ PAG-ASA Radar Station
This used to be a USA weather station and climbing to the top of it will offer you great panoramic views over the island.

◘◘ Didawud Idjang (Fortress)
There are a total of 4 Idjangs in Batanes and this is one of them. In the olden times, the Ivatan people used it as fortifications (likened to castles) to protect themselves during times of war. originally, these are elevations that were formed by molten volcanic magma which acted as a plug on an extinct crater.

◘◘ Dipnaysuhuan Japanese Tunnel
Located in the hills of Tukon, this five-door tunnel that’s complete with a series of chambers, was a bunker that served as a lookout spot and a water reservoir during the Japanese occupation.

◘◘ Chanpan/Valugan Boulder Beach
This popularly known for its long stretch of boulders due to Mt. Iraya’s eruption in 400 AD. The rock formation, smoothed over time by the strong Pacific waves, presents a panoramic view over the horizon and of Mt. Iraya.

◘◘ Provincial Capitol area / Casa Real
Built between the 16th to 18th century, it’s a government building and commonly regarded as the center of the town (nearby, you will find a vast sports plaza where most of the island’s celebrations are usually held).

◘◘ Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral / Sto. Domingo Church
This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Batanes and it is the first parish church to be built in the early 18th century in which it was originally made up of cogon grass roofing. It was also the first to have galvanized iron roofing in the 1890s. The feast of its patron saint, Sto. Domingo de Guzman, is celebrated by the Ivasays every August 8.

◘◘ Vayang Rolling Hills
These are seemingly endless waves of rolling hills that are perfectly backdropped by the seascape. It is best enjoyed from afar, but it is also best experienced when explored on foot; plus, this spot is the best vantage point for an unhampered view of the province’s three major islands.

◘◘ Naidi Hills and Basco Lighthouse
(One of my fave hang-out spots when I was young!) An old sitio derived from the Ivatan words “na” which means past, and “idi” which means settlement. Located here are old wireless telegraph facilities by the Americans which were bombed by Japan during World War II. One can also get a breathtaking view of the town atop the hilltop 66-feet lighthouse.

◘◘ Kural Marine Sanctuary
I remember visiting this place for picnics in the weekend with family, friends, and relatives! In 2005, it has been found that the marine life in this area is so rich and perfect for diving that it has been decided to properly protect it. After acquiring a pass, anyone can dive, swim, snorkel, and picnic here to enjoy its natural beauty.

Other/Substitute Activities

If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend the following:

◘◘ Climb Mt. Iraya
Towering over Basco at approximately 1,009 meters above sea level, this dormant volcano is the first attraction you will see upon landing in the airport. To get a picture-perfect view, timing and patience are required since its peak is almost always covered by clouds. As for climbing this mountain, it can be quite challenging because of its abundant endemic flora and fauna, but it’s absolutely doable.
NOTE: It supplies the water in all households in Basco — so yes, when you’re in Batanes, you can drink from the tap! It’s safe and fresh spring water!

» DAY #2 «

Given that Batan is a huge island, this day will be spent on the southern parts as you go through the top highlights of the remaining areas: Mahatao, Uyugan, Ivana, Itbud, and Imnajbu.

*If you’re ever pressed on time, this Batan South Tour can be combined with the North Tour and can be done in a day. But of course, it’s always best to take it easy so that you can have more time (and photo ops!) in each location. Remember: you should make the most of your trip here!

Do a Batan South Tour

◘◘ Chawa Viewdeck
A perfect spot to enjoy Batanes sunsets! Via a nearby staircase, you can also descend more than a hundred steps down to the adjacent cliff to fish, take pictures, or frolic in the waters.

◘◘ Boat Shelter Port
Located in Mahatao, this supports the goals of the fishing industry of the province namely: fish sufficiency and generation of employment. It was constructed in October 2005 and as a 130-million pesos project, it is the biggest infrastructure project by the Provincial Government at that time. The area was chosen because of its cove-like structure that gives good protection to the boats during inclement weather.

◘◘ San Carlos Borromeo Church
Its beauty and excellent state of preservation made it a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001. Outside the church, you will also find a typical olden Spanish lamp post — two vertical structures about 30 meters apart that were used to be manually lighted with fire so that the local fishermen could identify how far the shore is.

◘◘ Homoron Blue Lagoon (or Spanish Lagoon)
Located between Ivana and Mahatao, it’s an interesting spot because back in the Spanish era only the Spanish were allowed to take a dip there.

◘◘ Maydangeb White Beach
A cove with multi-colored rocks and white-colored sand, this spot can easily rival the beauty of Boracay! It is located along the national highway about 9 kilometers from Basco and is being maintained by both Mahatao and Ivana Local Government Units (LGU’s).

◘◘ Spanish Bridge
This was constructed and formed as part of the main road of Ivana during the Spanish period as the road leads to the doorstep of the Church. It is still being used to date by people and trucks alike.

◘◘ House of Dakay
Probably the most photographed Ivatan house in the islands, this was built of lime and stone in 1887 and owned by Luisa Estrella who bequeathed it to her favorite nephew, Jose “Dakay” Estrella. A survivor of the destructive earthquake of September 13, 1918 which has destroyed much of the rest of the town, its shutters and floor have never changed and has retained much of its authentic look throughout the decades.

◘◘ San Jose de Obrero Church
Built in 1784 by Fr. Jose Fausto de Cuevas, it is the only church in Batan with a separate bell tower that was constructed 30 years later. Built by the coastal area, it is here where Katipunero revolutionaries that commanded by Captain Perea have landed on September 18, 1898 to liberate the province from the Spaniards.

◘◘ Honesty Coffee Shop
An unmanned refreshment store which has become famous worldwide. Showcasing the best of Ivatan’s honesty, in here you will find no standby seller because the owners rely on the honesty of its customers when they pay for goods taken from the store.

◘◘ Song-song Ruins
Remnants of an old settlement which were..

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The Philippines northern paradise, Batanes, is a place that I proudly call as ‘home’. Ask any tourist who has been to our group of islands and they will surely speak volumes of its utter beauty and serenity — however, that doesn’t stop there because Batanes food or Ivatan cuisine is something to rave about too!

We are surrounded by clear seas and lush greenery after all, so you will definitely find a varied selection of seafood and vegetable dishes. They may all be cooked in a way that is simple, but I guarantee you, they are all flavorsome.

The best part of it all…? You’ll be assured that every plate will be fresh and organic!

So in order to make the most of your Batanes itinerary, let me give you an idea of the top Ivatan food or dishes to try, as well as where to best try them.

Wanna visit Batanes? Book with Iraya Tours for the cheapest packages! Get 15% off with this code:
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Batanes Food: What to Eat

TRIVIA: When in the islands, you will notice that most of the Batanes food or dishes are served in a big green leaf (as shown on the cover photo of this post). This becomes even more evident if you come visit during a fiesta event.

Those leaves are called vunung or breadfruit leaves (or kabaya in Filipino). Traditionally, meals are served in this leaf for easy wrapping — not to mention that it’s environmentally-friendly too! As for utensils, we customarily use our hands. It may seem difficult at first, but as a local, this is like the best and most homey way to eat Batanes food. (In fact, science even shows that eating food with your hands is healthy! Google that to know what I mean *wink*)

#1 Uved

Called as ‘tabtab‘ in Sabtang (one of the 3 inhabited islands in Batanes), uved or uvud is one of those Ivatan comfort food that I always miss!

It’s basically made of finely-grated corm (which is found at the base of a trunk of a banana plant) that’s mixed with ground meat (beef or pork), and minced fish. Afterwards, it is seasoned with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. This will be rolled into balls or served as is and can either be with or without its broth.
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#2 Dibang

A common fish that you will find in the islands is dibang or flying fish — yes, it does ‘fly’ or leap out of the water, a defense mechanism to evade predators. To date, it has different variations (other than simply frying it as is), such as:

  • Lataven – are you familiar with kinilaw-style of preparing fish meat in the Philippines or simply, ‘ceviche’? If yes, then lataven is very similar to this. Dibang (or any kind of fish) is drenched in vinegar and calamansi juice, as well as mixed with minced ginger, onions, and salt.
  • Maytahes (one-day-old) – after the fish is cleaned and opened up, it will be marinated in salt, vinegar, and garlic and then laid out under the sun for a day to dry.
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#3 Vunes

This is a dish that my father used to prepare a lot for our family (he cooks it real good!). This is made of  preserved gabi (taro) stalks which could technically last for years.

As a typical Batanes food, the gabi stalks are first soaked in water. Afterwards, it will be cut and minced and then cooked together with pork and patola (or sponge gourd).

You could surely think of it as another version of laing, a Bicol specialty in the Philippines.
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#4 Payi

Payi or lobsters are abundant in Batanes, so a humongous one can be easily bought for as cheap as Php 150 (or $3)! Indeed you could imagine my surprise when my family and I moved out of Batanes and I found out that my favorite payi is ridiculously expensive in the city.

As for another crustacean that you’ve probably heard about would be tatus or coconut crabs which are well known for its sweet meat and creamy aligue (or crab fat) — after all, they feed on fleshy fruits, nuts, seeds, and coconuts (which is not a big part of their diet, contrary to popular belief). Anyhow, these coconut crabs are impressive because they can climb a coconut tree, take one, and cut its husk with just their claws; although… it can actually take several days for the coconut to be opened.

Now here’s the thing: tatus is declared as an endangered species.

If you search Google, there’s actually no official statement that they are endangered; but in Batanes, it has been declared as so because it’s noticeable how it has become considerably difficult to find or hunt for them. I do remember that when I was small, my father can catch coconut crabs easily if he just goes to the forest and fields, but it seems that nowadays, such is not the case anymore.

Starting this year, consuming them is no longer allowed. And in the rare case that you happen to stumble into a restaurant that offers you one, please refrain from eating it to help alleviate this problem. I mean I know that I’m kind of a tease for even discussing tatus when it’s actually a banned dish, but I feel the need to mention this so as to help educate you guys about the situation revolving this ‘endangered’ species in Batanes. Thanks for cooperating with us Ivatans!
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#5 Root Crops

The Batanes Islands are abundant with root crops, namely:

  • Wakay (sweet potato)
  • Dukay (yam)
  • Uvi (another type of yam)
  • Sudi (taro)

They’re steamed, fried, or smoked; but recently, we have started to make different ways of cooking it (I’ve heard that there’s even a wakay donut now).

Personally, I love to eat them fried and then dipped in condensed milk or coconut cream!
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#6 Luñis

This is a different version of the popular Filipino dish, adobo, because luñis is rather served dry.

Lasting for quite a while, this traditional dish is made of pork cooked with rock salt until its fat is rendered and it turns golden brown. Back in the old days, it is stored in its own lard in jars for months to ensure continuous supply.

To best eat luñis, I love to pair it with supas whilst dipping it in vinegar and garlic!
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#7 Supas

Always a staple during fiestas or festivals, supas or balencyana (as called in Itbayat Island) is rice cooked in turmeric pulp (yellow ginger) that’s often mixed with garlic and pork.

It’s aptly called as yellow rice because, well… it is yellow from the turmeric. Some people would often say that the taste is close to ‘java rice‘, and that’s right! Though, I have to say that I like our supas more when it comes to flavor.
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#8 Other Local Vegetables

  • Tamiduk – also called as pako or Fiddlehead fern, this is arguably the most popular vegetable in Batanes and one of my favorites too! When I was still living in the island, I often helped prepare it for our meals as it was easy to make: simply sauté and season with salt, garlic and onions. If you go to restaurants, they serve it as a salad with dressing (such as calamansi vinaigrette).
  • Utut nu Bulyas – my favorite morning fix, these are scallions or green onions that are sautéed together with scrambled egg and spices.
  • Chinavules – these are steamed taro leaves that are mixed with garlic, ginger, and onions.
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#9 Other Batanes Food from the Sea

  • Arayu – also called as mahi-mahi or golden dorado, this fish is indeed of golden color and slightly mixed with hues of blue and green. In Batanes, harvesting this fish is a part of a sacred tradition (kapayvanuvanua) in the small fishing village of Diura. Up to this day, the Ivatans there still practice it as they believe that it will protect them from the sea as well as give them a bountiful catch.
  • Kanañis – octopus that is commonly fried, this is often a favorite when it comes to beer drinking sessions!
  • Seaweed soup or balls – my family actually rarely eat this but it’s quite a unique treat (and healthy too!)
  • Uni – these are sea urchins and they can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Dumay – also called as a ‘common periwinkle’, dumay is a species of small edible sea snail; however, as much as I love them, it’s a bit of a pain to eat (you have to use a pin to scoop it out, but I bet restaurants can serve this to you without its shell).
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There is absolutely a LOT of other Batanes food that you should try, but for now, these are the top dishes that I would recommend that you try as a start! Now, if you’re wondering about a must-try fruit or drink, below are what I would recommend (other than the typical mangoes, coconuts, etc.):

Chayi – or Spanish lime is not actually lime but more of a variant of a lychee. It can get messy to open it up though since its skin’s juice can be quite sticky, but the creamy pulp inside is so heavenly to eat!

Palek – our native wine that’s made from sugarcane and these are sold wildly across the islands.

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Batanes Food: Where to Eat

When I was still living in Batanes, I don’t think we ever had restaurants — except for SDC which was more of a canteen than a restaurant if you ask me.

But with the recent tourism boom, a lot of restaurants have popped up and those that I recommend would be the following:

#1 Octagon Restaurant

An octagon-shaped restaurant, this has an excellent outdoor deck area with awesome views over the West Philippine sea, Naidi Hills, and Basco port that’s located on the National Road near the Basco welcome sign. In here you can find both local Batanes food and Filipino food.

Sitio Disong Brgy. Kaychanarianan
Along National Road
Contact Numbers: 09396451744 / 09369548482
Email: OctagonBedanadDine2014@yahoo.com

#2 Cafe du Tukon

The sole restaurant of the luxury hotel Fundacion Pacita, this place does not only have a picturesque view over the sea, the hills, and Mt. Iraya but it also offers delicious Ivatan and western dishes for your fancy.

Brgy. Chanarian, Tukon
Contact Numbers: 09399016353 / 09178559364
Email: cafedetukon@gmail.com
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#3 Marconine’s

When you’re out to check Rakuh a Payaman (Marlboro Country) or Vayang Rolling Hills in Batan, you will find the humble canteen of Marconine’s. However, don’t let its size fool you because it offers you grand views and sumptuous meals at a very affordable price!

Uyugan, Batanes, Philippines
No contact number or email available, but it’s the only restaurant you’ll find at the spot.
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#4 Midtown Inn

I know the owners of this hotel and I have ate at their restaurant for most of the time while I was visiting Batanes — and boy, they prepared all of my favorite Batanes food perfectly!

Abad St, Cor. Lizardo St.
Contact numbers: 09213677933 / 09065317064
Email: midtowninn.batanes@gmail.com
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#5 Pension Ivatan

Yet another accommodation place, its restaurant is also a favorite for filling up one’s appetite with great and authentic Ivatan dishes!

Brgy. Kayvaluganan
Contact numbers: 09088659675 / 09175859288
Email: pensionivatan@yahoo.com.ph
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Overall

Writing this post just made me crave for Batanes food even more…

Nonetheless, I hope this helps you as you map and plan out your upcoming things to do in Batanes! It is also my hope that you will come to love not only the cuisine but also the Ivatan people, nature, and culture.

Let me know how it goes for you!

NOTE: I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to Mr. Opal E. Bala for providing me with the above food photos. If you need a professional photographer in Batanes, he’s the guy you should go for! Contact him via his email: opal_ivatan@yahoo.com or check out his Facebook page.

How about you?

  • What do you think of Batanes food or Ivatan cuisine?
  • Would you like to try out some of them? Which of them particularly?
  • Or have you tried some of these dishes before? How was it?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

The post Batanes Food: What & Where to Eat for the Best Ivatan Cuisine appeared first on I am Aileen.

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Tell me: would you agree to do a spontaneous trip to an unknown destination wherein you will only know where it would be, 4 hours before the flight? Well… if you ask me, I would — and I did! (And I bet you guys would do it too!) ~ Masbate ~

This budget / backpacker travel challenge was actually handed out to me by Cebu Pacific Air as a “blogger’s version” of their Juan for Fun campaign for this year.

What is “Juan for Fun”?
It is an annual contest held by Cebu Pacific Air. For this year (this is their 6th year!), they are looking for a team of 3 who are college students or fresh graduates in the Philippines aged 18 to 23 to come up with a simple video that answers the question: ‘How can I share the FUN in Juan for Fun?‘

The deadline for the contest is on May 15 and the winners will receive an epic 1-year FREE travel pass! (For more info, check out their Facebook page.)

Doesn’t that sound exciting?!
(Oh how I wish this existed when I was still in OR fresh out of college.)

But naturally, my challenge was different since I was only given a small ‘taste’ of the actual experience that the winning team would go through. So, what exactly did they make me do?

To start off, I had to go alone to this secret destination for 3 days with just Php 10,000 pocket money (or around $200~) . Once I arrive there, I will have to arrange everything on my own — accommodation, tours, food, activity, etc. — whilst making it a point to complete some challenges along the way.

I haven’t done a strict budget travel spree in a long while now; but for sure, I found the pocket money more than enough. Plus, I do know that it’s possible for me to spend 40% of that pocket money (or even lower!)

So yeah… BRING IT ON!

Spoiler: In the end, due to sudden events and new-found friends, I spent a total of Php 2,040 only for 3 days! Are you curious about how this happened? Do read on below to find out.

All in all, this was an incredibly fun concept and I was more than excited to jumpstart it all!
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Juan for Fun: Masbate Exploration

Exploring Masbate, Philippines: A 3-Day Budget Travel Challenge - YouTube

» DAY #1 «

April 18, Morning: When the clock struck 4AM, I received my flight tickets via email and of course, it indicated the destination that I will be going to. As the title of this post suggests, Cebu Pacific Air picked Masbate for me.

Confession time. I had no idea what Masbate is known for nor where it is located. Rest assured, this is one of the reasons why I travel: to slowly correct my geographic knowledge, haha.

I woke up at around 6AM (after I was told a day before to come to the airport at 7AM for my flight), therefore technically, I didn’t have much time to research about Masbate at all. Once I arrived at the airport, the Cebu Pacific Air team handed me some goodies and an “Adventure Passport” which indicated the challenges that I had to do for my trip.

  • Try a local delicacy.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Ride 4 different public transportation vehicles.
  • Take a creative sunset shot.

All were perfectly doable! In fact, these were things that I already planned on doing or things that I would naturally have to do. Still and the same, these challenges surely added more flair to my trip and I was more than ready to start ticking them off!

Arrival, Noon: While I was on the plane, I had to wonder why it seemed like all the seats were packed… I mean, I would expect this phenomena from such a famous place like Boracay for example; but for Masbate, I had to rack my brain and wonder why I hadn’t heard of this place if it had that much passengers per flight!

I got the answer to my question 1 hour later as I landed at Masbate’s airport and glimpsed at the posters and locals who were clad in cowboy-esque clothing: Rodeo Festival.

This was the city’s biggest festival and I happened to have arrived during the height of it all (given that it was the start of the competitions and the official opening)!

To keep the record straight, this didn’t seem to be the intention of Cebu Pacific Air because I picked the dates for the trip (as per my availability).

As I felt the excitement in the air, I started to have a bad feeling about my trip. My worries were confirmed once I visited the city’s tourism office: they told me that as much as they wanted to help me map out my itinerary, hotels were fully booked because of the festival. PLUS, all tours are also packed already with no available boats nor guides left!

Nevertheless, I wasn’t one to be disheartened. I had my worries but I knew I had to ‘soldier on’. And so, I hailed a tricycle and headed off to a nearby hotel to try my chances.

“Sorry, we have no rooms left!”, the receptionist told me apologetically.

The more budget accommodations were of course a no-go. But I still wasn’t going to give up! Before moving on to the next hotel, I stayed a bit at the lobby of Ross Hotel as I started asking the people there about other places that I can try.

It was in that moment when someone behind me quipped, “They don’t have a room for you…?”

I turned around and glanced upon a lady clad in a dress and a cowboy hat. I had a feeling that she was going to ‘save’ me — and she did!

To cut the story short, her name was Airis and she offered me a reserved room of her friend at Rendezvous Hotel who couldn’t make it to Masbate. Imagine what luck I had when it just so happened that she booked the room for 2 nights! She warned me that the hotel was old yet it was worth Php 1,300 per night because of the festival season; but I really didn’t mind. It was to be expected anyway, and I was already more than happy to have a place where I can sleep in later on in the night.

We continued to exchange info and numbers and while I was riding the tricycle to my hotel, I found out  via texts from her that:

  • She was a Secretary to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in Masbate.
  • She had already paid P1,000 deposit for my room, so I only had to pay Php 1,600.
  • I can correspond with the hotel owner and arrange a tour because he was a dear friend of hers.

Mind you, she didn’t know yet that I was a travel blogger, so she wasn’t definitely doing this for promotion nor appearances and whatnot: she was doing this simply out of her innate kindness.

Needless to say, my welcome in Masbate started off great!

Activities, Afternoon till Night: Cookie, the hotel owner of Rendezvous Hotel, managed to arrange a boat for me on the next day to a nearby island called as Buntod Sandbar (which was also a reef sanctuary). He suggested that I just spend the rest of the day enjoying the festivities of the Rodeo festival and that’s exactly what I did!

I walked through the Masbate’s center feeling a bit out of place as well as a bit enthralled as I watched all the people around me in full cowboy and cowgirl regalia.

The Rodeo Festival in Masbate City is an annual event that happens in the month of April and it comprises a series of events and competitions that aim to showcase the work of ranch workers. This is to ultimately bring awareness to the cattle-raising industry in the province.

Growing up in Batanes, I am no stranger to how cattle are raised BUT this was the first time that I ever saw a rodeo show. As I sat at the bleachers of the Grand Rodeo Arena, I can’t help but feel sorry for the cows and I even started to be conflicted at why I was watching the whole show… After all, I really don’t want to support affairs that derive entertainment out of animals from actions that could hurt them.

However, I was assured that the whole affair was simply a showcase of typical animal-handling skills done by people in a ranch. The officials also continually ensure that no animals will get hurt or be injured from the events because they strive to maintain animal welfare and safety. At the very core, they simply want to promote Masbate as the home of Philippine Rodeo as well as the best source of organic beef.

With all that said and done, I leave it up to you to decide if you want to attend and watch this famous festivity in Masbate.

The show aside, it was surreal to walk around the arena’s shopping area as well as the rest of the city’s spaces because I truly felt as if I was transported to a western country (what with all the cowboys and cowgirls that were all over the place!).

Come night time, there was a stage set up with surrounding food stalls and it was here that I had my first local seafood dish whilst I watched a music concert and a fireworks show.

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» DAY #2 «

April 19, Whole Day: I initially wanted to witness the ‘cattle drive‘ — an event that reenacts the practice of the Masbate ranchers whenever they bring herds and herds of cattle to the port in the olden days. However… I heard the time wrongly so unfortunately, I didn’t catch it on time.

Anyhow, since I was already at the center, I decided to stroll the streets and see more sights. One interesting landmark I found was the San Antonio de Padua Cathedral which had a beautiful altar and pulpit!

I eventually rode a tricycle back to the hotel after I had my fun walking through the center (so that I could make it in time for my boat ride to Buntod Sandbar).

First though: lunch! The locals at the hotel vehemently made me try one of their local dishes called as “sinagol” when I asked for their suggested dish. I asked the content and they told me that it was made of shark meat mixed with coconut cream and vegetables. I was certainly apprehensive at first… but after my first bite I really felt like asking for more! I guess you can never go wrong with dishes that have coconut mixed in.

After I had my fill, the staff at the hotel started to look for a group that I could join to Buntod and they ended up finding a troop who still had one slot left for their boat trip. After introductions were done with, I found out that my companions that day were all workmates who came all the way from Naga City for the Rodeo festival.

They were incredibly friendly and accommodating that by the end of the day, they did NOT allow me to pay for the boat nor for the snacks that they brought! I surely felt welcome and well taken care of. I guess they were fascinated about the fact that I was traveling alone, so they took it upon themselves to look after me somewhat.

Meanwhile, Buntod Sandbar was as picturesque as I thought it would be! According to the currents and the tide, its shape and size can change. Furthermore, the young mangrove plantation at one of it’s tip was seemingly a haven to some baby black tip sharks. I didn’t manage to witness one but they’re said to pass through the roots during high tide; rest assured, they’re creatures that you shouldn’t be scared of.

As a marine sanctuary, you can also snorkel to the nearby reefs but it helps to note that you need to watch out for sea urchins because they can be quite prevalent on those parts.

As the clock struck 6PM, we slowly made our way back to the main shore on our boat while we soaked in the great sunset views on the horizon. Before I bid goodbye to my companions, they swiftly extended a dinner invitation to me and it was easy to say ‘yes’. What followed for the rest of the night was a hearty dinner with newfound friends and a night of fun back to the rodeo arena!
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» DAY #3 «

April 20, Morning: “You’re never really alone when you travel. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you…”

I may have traveled to Masbate alone but NOT once did I feel that I was by myself. Going by what I have experienced during my brief stay, I was always surrounded by kind locals and non-locals alike who were more than willing to help me out and make me feel welcome.

And although my trip was brief, this was undoubtedly a memorable trip for me and you bet that I will be coming back for more because the province of Masbate is HUGE and there’s definitely a handful more of islands, forests, hikes, etc. for me to conquer.
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» JUAN FOR FUN CHALLENGE RECAP «

  • Try a local delicacy: Seafood, sinagol, and carmelado
  • Go for a swim: At Buntod Sandbar
  • Ride 4 different public transport: Habal-habal, tricycle, boat, and service van
  • Take a creative sunset photo: At Buntod
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» ITINERARY BREAKDOWN WITH COSTS

DAY 1

• 12:00 = Arrival at Masbate Airport
• 1:00 = Visited the Masbate Tourism Office ~ FREE habal-habal ride from a kind local
• 1:30 = Tricycle ride to the center to look for hotels ~ Php 10
• 2:00 =Tricycle ride to Rendezvous Hotel ~ Php 10
• 2:00 = Day 1 payment for hotel with breakfast ~ Php 1,300
• 3:00 = Tricycle to Grand Rodeo Arena ~ Php 10
• 3:15 = Entrance fee to rodeo show ~ Php 20
• 5:00 = Entrance fee to rodeo’s night show ~ Php 50
• 7:00 = Dinner ~ Php 105
• 9:00 = Tricycle back to hotel ~ Php 10

DAY 2

• 8:00 = 2nd day’s hotel fee balance ~ Php 300
• 8:00 = Tricycle to city ~ Php 10
• 10:00 = Tricycle back to hotel to catch boat to Buntod Sandbar ~ Php 10
• 11:00 = Early lunch ~ Php 85
• 12:00 = Boat to Buntod Sandbar ~ FREE (my boat companions paid for my share, supposedly Php 100)
• 7:00 = Dinner ~ FREE (courtesy of my boat companions)
• 9:00 = Drive to Grand Rodeo Arena via service van ~ FREE (courtesy of my boat companions)
• 9:30 = Snacks ~ Php 10

DAY 3

• 8:30AM = Tricycle from hotel to city center ~ Php 10
• 9:00 = Airport terminal fee ~ Php 100

TOTAL TRIP COST: Php 2,040 only
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» PRE-TRAVEL GUIDE

Where to get the best flight deals to Masbate, Philippines?
Where else but Cebu Pacific Air! On average, it costs about Php 3,000 ($60) one way to Masbate; but if you grab one of the airlines’ regular promo schemes, your tickets could even cost less than a dollar.

What hotel to stay in Masbate City center?
Check out GV Hotel Masbate, Ross Hotel, or Rendezvous Resort and Hotel. The city itself has a decent amount of hotels, but if you go during Rodeo Festival, walk-ins to hotels would be quite difficult so make sure to book way in advance should you want to attend this festivity.

*The area around GV Hotel Masbate and Ross Hotel is an ideal place to stay in since it’s close to restaurants, stores, banks, and ATMs.

How to get around?
Tricycle rides within the city starts at Php 8.00 only and there are also habal-habal (motorcycle) drivers. For longer distances, there are buses, jeepneys, mini vans, and boats to take you.

TIP: If you want help in mapping out your itinerary, feel free to visit Masbate’s tourism office at the Masbate Social Center area. You can also contact them beforehand via phone (09391561961), email (masbateprovincialtourism@gmail.com) or Facebook.

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Overall
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It’s not every day you get the chance to be served a set course meal that’s fit for royalty — all served by a Michelin-Starred chef who has made a name for himself in the culinary world… That’s why when the Swiss Education Group and the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines invited me to a lunch affair at Marco Polo Ortigas with the world-renowned Swiss Chef, Anton Mosimann OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), I gladly said ‘yes‘ in a heartbeat!

After all, I found out that Anton Mosimann is the chef who cooked for the guests of Prince William and Catherine “Kate” Middleton in their evening wedding reception at Buckingham Palace! And that’s not all, because this is but just two of the many known figures worldwide that he has cooked for in his whole career. With that in mind, it was truly an honor that I was able to be a part of this event!
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Anton Mosimann, OBE

Here are a few notable facts about Chef Anton Mosimann:

  • Born in  Solothurn, Switzerland, Mosimann received his diploma as a chef de cuisine (main chef in a restaurant) at the young age of 25. He then proceeded to work at hotels in Belgium, Japan, Montreal and Rome.
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  • At 28, he was appointed as the Maitre Chef des Cuisines at the Dorchester Hotel in London. During his 13-year tenure here, he achieved a 2-star rating in the Michelin Guide thereby making it the first hotel restaurant outside of France to do so.
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  • Anton Mosimann has led culinary teams that cooked for 5 British Prime Ministers, 4 generations of the British Royal Family, 4 Presidents of the United States of America, and most of Europe’s heads of state. Additionally, he was the catering partner for the 3 latest Olympic games!
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  •  In 2000, he received the Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales for catering, in 2004 Mosimann received the excellent British OBE title “for services to the Tourist and Food Industries” and the Catering Industry’s Lifetime Achievement Award among many other grand accolades.
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  • In 2017, The Mosimann Collection of Culinary Heritage in Geneva, Switzerland was opened and it features Anton Mosimann’s extensive library of cookery books alongside his medals and other memorabilia.
    • You will find here his first owned cookbook which is the world’s largest (66cm x 47cm) from 1733.
    • Plus, you will also see here the smallest cookbook: The Handbook of Practical Cookery (10cm x 6cm) from 1960.
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  • He currently runs a private dining club called Mosimann’s in London, a cookery school, and other enterprises in the hospitality industry.
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My Dining Experience with Anton Mosimann

There’s one word I would use to sum up the luncheon that we had with Chef Anton Mosimann and it would be the word: unforgettable.

There were over 50 other guests that day at Marco Polo Ortigas and it was a mix of business people, media persons, and Swiss personalities and this was actually the first of the many events that will be happening this year whilst the Embassy of Switzerland celebrates its great 60-year-long relationship with the Philippines.

Once I was ushered to my designated seat, I instantly glimpsed the exquisite 4-course wine-pairing menu that had an attached bow tie to it — apparently, this was being given away to every guest since it perfectly signifies the funky bow ties that Anton Mosimann usually wears!

He was quite the personality as he gave us a quick warm welcome before drifting back into the kitchen to prepare our meal.

The dishes that he served to us were as follows:

  • 1st: Marinated Salmon with Dorset Crab, Spring Onion & Lemon Dressing
  • 2nd: Anton’s Risotto ai Funghi
    > This is the dish that the late Princess Diana has named as her personal favorite and I can fully understand why!
  • 3rd: Seared Fillet of Lamb, Rosemary Sauce & Market Vegetables
  • 4th: Passion Fruit Soufflé with Yogurt Ice Cream

It helps to note that Anton Mosimann is known for his signature cooking style which he started in 1985 and which he calls as ‘cuisine naturelle‘.

Anton Mosimann

“I created what I call cuisine naturelle. Its main characteristic is that it does without such ingredients as butter, cream, and alcohol. The focus is concentrated even more on the flavour of the individual ingredients. The dishes are only lightly cooked. In nouvelle cuisine and also cuisine naturelle, enormous emphasis is put on the presentation of the dishes.”

To cap off our delightful and scrumptious meal, we were served a plate of sweets which was called Petit Four.
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Overall

…It was all so divine!

Savouring all of the dishes that were laid before me, I could clearly see how Anton Mosimann is a legendary and award-winning figure in the culinary scene.

And with all that, I just want to express how I am absolutely thankful for the people at the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines, the Ambassador Andrea Reichlin, the Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Raoul Imbach, and of course, Mr. Herve Findeisen from the Swiss Education Group.

It was surely a pleasure to have been able to be a part of this gathering which gave me a chance to know more about Switzerland, as well as one of its renowned personalities! I do hope to be a part of more!

Images from: Swiss Education Group, KumagCow

How about you?

  • What do you think of Chef Anton Mosimann?
  • Would you also like to have the chance to taste his cooking?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

The post Lunch with Legendary Michelin-Starred Chef Anton Mosimann appeared first on I am Aileen.

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Flying business class is placed high up on my bucket list — besides, who wouldn’t want to travel in utter luxury, style, and comfort (with ample leg space), right? So, you could imagine how happy I was when I finally checked this experience off of my list last month when I said ‘YES‘ to Singapore Airlines‘ invitation of flying with them to New Zealand and back!

Given that this was my first flight in business class, I was also quite giddy about the fact that it was with THE Singapore Airlines. After all, they have remained to be one of the top 3 airlines in the world for years; that being said, I was absolutely sure that I was going to have a great time with them — and I surely did!

…It will be pretty tough to go back to economy class after this.
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THE ROUTE

This trip was in line with Singapore Airlines’ newly launched ‘Capital Express‘ service that links Singapore for the first time with the capital cities of both Australia and New Zealand. It operates 4 times per week on a Singapore > Canberra > Wellington routing + vice versa, and from Manila, Singapore Airlines flies to Singapore four times daily. (Otherwise, if you’re from Cebu, Davao and Kalibo, you can fly to Singapore via SilkAir).

Coming from Manila, I first got on a flight to Singapore on SIA’s Boeing 777-300ER and it spanned for almost 4 hours. After a brief stopover hanging at their lounge, we proceeded to our final destination: Auckland, New Zealand.

Going back, we flew on their Boeing 777-200 aircraft from Wellington, New Zealand to Singapore, via Canberra – Australia and then eventually made our way back to Manila.

I will discuss in detail the airline’s lounge, business class seats, food, service, etc. after this section; but in case you’re more of a visual person, you can already check out my video below as I captured the whole of my experience on camera!

Flying Business Class with Singapore Airlines 777-300ER: Philippines to New Zealand Route! - YouTube

PRICING & PROMOS
  • BUSINESS CLASS: roundtrip fare from the Philippines to New Zealand is normally around $4,000++. However, from November 15 to 30, you can avail Singapore Airlines’ promotional fares for business class: Wellington (from $2,800), Auckland (from $3,000), and Christchurch (from $3,000). Travel period will be from November 20, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

    Customers availing of the Business Class promo fares are allowed to stopover in Singapore without an additional fee when going back to the Philippines.

    .
  • ECONOMY CLASS: from November 15 to 30, Singapore Airlines is offering promotional all-in roundtrip fares to Wellington (from $800), Auckland ($950), and Christchurch ($950) for travel from November 22 to July 31, 2017.
    .
  • PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS: purchase an all-in plain Economy Class ticket to Auckland using your MasterCard credit or debit card and you can get a FREE one-way upgrade to Premium Economy Class! Just book your tickets starting now until November 11, 2016 through Singapore Airlines or SilkAir reservations/ticketing office for travel from November 2, 2016 to March 31, 2017 to avail this promo.

    Qualified customers must book and issue the complimentary one way Premium Economy Class upgrade the same time they purchase their roundtrip Economy Class ticket. Terms and conditions apply.

    What’s the awesome thing about Premium Economy Class? You get a wider seat that has better comfort, recline, stowage space, and in-seat features among many others. You can also select your inflight meal from Singapore Airlines’ signature ‘Book the Cook’ service, receive an exclusive amenity kit, and on-ground priority check-in and baggage handling (in addition to a baggage allowance of 35kg).
    .
  • SHOPPING VOUCHER: If you’re on transit in Singapore and originating from any of these countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China (Mainland), Europe including Russia and Turkey, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates or Vietnam — you will get a FREE $20 shopping voucher which you can spend on most of the establishments at Changi Airport. To claim, present your passport and boarding pass at the iShopChangi Collection Centres in Terminals 2 and 3.
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  • NEW ZEALAND VISA APPLICATIONS: Singapore Airlines PPS Club, KrisFlyer Elite Gold or Elite Silver passengers who hold passports from Philippines, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam can have their tourist visa applications expedited to 4-5 working days only (compared to the normal 15 working day processing)!
    .
Flying Business Class with Singapore Airlines (PH to NZ)

» SilverKris Lounge in Manila, Philippines

Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris Lounge concept is part of its ongoing program to upgrade all of its airport lounges around the world. The one that’s located in Manila’s Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) is actually the 1st of its kind to be built in Southeast Asia, and it’s even designed like a homey abode in order to make it as its passengers’ new ‘home away from home’.

With a space of over 450-square meters, it provides a total of 117 seats, the highlights of which are the signature high-back armchairs and the productivity pods. I personally spent a lot of my time at a pod because it did not only provide privacy and comfort, but an array of sockets and USB ports too — a perfect arrangement for a digital nomad like me! (WiFi connection was also provided for free and it was adequately fast.)

When it comes to aesthetics, it was apparent as well that each and every element placed here in the SilverKris lounge was well thought out. For instance, at the middle of the lounge is an elegant art piece designed by Filipino sculptor Impy Pilapil which represents the experience of flying. Most of the other walls are adorned by paintings taken from SilverLens Gallery, some of which are art pieces of Filipino artists (an act done in an aim of promoting local talent.)

The food didn’t disappoint either as it provides a wide range of Singapore dishes (laksa, Hainanese chicken, etc.), Filipino fare (Bicol Express, adobo rice, etc.), western delights (pasta, etc.), desserts (ice cream, pastries, etc.), and drinks (wine, beers, juices, spirits, etc.). 

Rest assured, the SilverKris Lounge’s menu is regularly changed or updated in order to provide a variety of dishes!

» Business Class Seats

We obviously boarded different kinds of aircrafts for our flight to New Zealand (and back) — but this section, I will be focusing on the Business Class seats in their Boeing 777-300ER.

With over 48 seats, I pre-booked my sport at a window seat (A or K), which I advise you should do as well if you don’t want a neighbor (typical of the middle seats D & F).

Now, the first time that I saw my designated space, I couldn’t help but get all ‘giddy’ like a child!

  • SEATING: It has a pitch of 55 inches — pitch means the space between your seat and the seat in front of you and 55 definitely means more legroom. Meanwhile, the width is at 28 inches and it can turn into a flat bed of 78 inches long with padded headboard for added comfort, and then recline at 132 degrees (which allows added seating positions such as Lazy Z and Sundeck).
    NOTE: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you would know how I’m still currently coping with my fear of flying. Now I kid you not… riding business class with Singapore Airlines made me SO at ease that I felt zero anxiousness even when there was turbulence! With that in mind, I now believe that flying business class will continue to help me in overcoming my irrational fear -wink-
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  • ENTERTAINMENT: Singapore Airlines offers its award-winning KrisWorld entertainment system on this flight with over 100 movies (inclusive of the latest releases), 180 television programs, 700 audio CDs, 22 audio programs, games, and more! (Business class has 18″ LCD monitors and the premium economy class has 13.3″ full HD monitors.)
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  • OTHERS: There were ample storage compartments not only by the side of my seat but also below my feet. For those who would like to work during the flight, the table can be adjusted by height, there are well-positioned reading lights, an in-seat laptop power supply, a USB port, and HDMI ports. If you need WiFi, it’s also available and you can pay for access using your credit card. (Other additional features include: a personal vanity mirror, cocktail trays, dual headphone hook, in-seat ambient light, etc.)

» Premium Economy Class Seats

As I’ve mentioned at an earlier part of this post, these new Premium Economy Class Seats are a great upgrade option if you’re not that willing to shell out a lot of money for Business Class but are still looking for a more comfortable seat for your long haul flight.

This seat class in the Boeing 777-300ER number around 28; they are able to recline and are at a pitch of 38 inches and a width of 19.5 inches.

» Inflight Meals

No matter what seating class you may be, I can assure you as early as now that Singapore Airlines will serve dishes that are of the highest quality!

A brief background: ever since 1998, they have set up their own International Culinary Panel made up of award-winning chefs around the world and they are the ones responsible for creating the unique selections on board.

When you book into Suites, First, Business, and Premium Economy and fly into Singapore, the airline’s ‘Book the Cook‘ service becomes available which gives you the chance to pick from a range of gourmet main courses — all of which are exclusive creations by their International Culinary Panel.

I booked all of my meals beforehand and when the ‘Book the Cook‘ service became available (which were 2 of my flights), I ended up picking the  Roast Lamb Chops and the Classic Lobster Thermidor… and boy, they both tasted superb! The same goes for their standard meals too and I honestly never thought that ‘airplane food’ can be that good.

» Service

There’s a reason why Singapore Airlines has remained to be one of the top airlines in the world: they have state-of-the-art planes, gourmet-tasting food AND wonderful customer service.

All throughout the flights that I took, I was offered champagne and juices the moment that I stepped into my seat, after the seat-belt sign was taken off, during idle times, and an hour before arrival. At one point, the crew even handed me a cute little stuffed bear to keep me company and to take home as a gift. Whenever I needed a magazine too, or if I needed assistance in laying down the flat bed, they were always prompt to respond with huge warm smiles on their faces.

That didn’t stop there! During sleeping time, they would start to give me pillows, socks, a blanket, slippers, an eye mask, and a hot towel. Couple that with the constant stream of good food and snacks when I wake up later on, and naturally… I was soooo pampered — to the point that I didn’t want to leave the plane at all!
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Overall

My experience with Singapore Airlines was beyond amazing and you bet that I would LOVE to try this all over again, most especially when it comes to long-haul flights.

Either way, when money just won’t cut it for a Business Class seat, there’s always the Premium Economy Class option for us which is more than sufficient for our flight needs of comfortability and style!

So now, if you’re heading to New Zealand or to anywhere else in the world, do consider flying with Singapore Airlines because as you can see, you’re bound to have a fantastic time!

FLY WITH SINGAPORE AIRLINES NOW!

DISCLAIMER: Singapore Airlines sponsored my trip to New Zealand and back. Still and as always, all views that are expressed here represent only those made by myself and NOT of any other entity in their favor.

How about you?

  • What do you think about Singapore Airlines’ Business Class?
  • Would you like to try it or not?
  • Or did you fly with them before? How was your experience?

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As a traveler, you would know by now that I have since left the Philippines to base myself abroad. After 2 years of living and traveling overseas, I decided that it was time to book a ticket to Manila in order to visit my family and friends.

After ironing out my itinerary, I started to hunt for the best staycation that’s right in the heart of the metropolis — for sure, a hotel or an accommodation at my parents’ house would have been an easy answer, but I wanted a centralized place to myself which would hold amenities that are beyond the typical hotel room.

…and that’s when the Makati Diamond Residences came into the picture.

A new property right in the heart of Makati, it offers convenient serviced apartments that have the similar luxuries of a luxury business hotel! It’s absolutely perfect for travelers like me, as well as long-staying guests.

Here are the other reasons why I have come to love this accommodation:

– HOTEL & SERVICE –

Superb location. Situated right in front of the Greenbelt Malls Complex in Makati, the Makati Diamond Residences provides its guests with fast and easy access to the central business district of the country, the best dining establishments, the greatest entertainment and shopping destinations, and more! Sure enough, you don’t need to brave yourself through traffic or whatnot since everything can be just a walk away from the hotel.

Great Attention to Detail. You will witness it for yourself how every room and facility in the Makati Diamond Residences are designed not only for style but for comfort and convenience too. After all, they have made use of the best materials and furnishings to make the hotel a fitting new ‘home base’ for all of their guests; and for sure, they’ve found the perfect mix for ‘homey’ and ‘luxurious’.

Dedicated Service. The kind of service that a hotel can offer can definitely make or break a staycation experience. Rest assured, with Makati Diamond Residences, you will be assisted and guided by the best staff possible who are not only accommodating but warm. Besides, if you opt to stay in one of the hotel’s bigger suites, you will be treated to their Club Lounge which features a  bar lounge, a private dining area, a private cinema, and more. Clearly, you will be in good hands here!

– ACCOMMODATION –

Makati Diamond Residences has over 433 spacious guestrooms that are comfortable and modern, clad in bright earthy tones. Depending on your needs, they have the following room types that you can choose from:

Studio– 41 sqm king– 41 sqm twin

One Bedroom – 64 sqm suite– 70 sqm suite– 72 sqm suite– 80 sqm suite

Two Bedroom– 96 sqm suite– 122 sqm suite– 154 sqm suite

For the standard amenities and inclusions that every room has:

  • Fully-functional kitchen (oven, stove, refrigerator, etc.)
  • 55-inch LED television
  • Rain showerhead and bathtub
  • In-room safe
  • TWG Tea set-up
  • Complimentary WiFi access
  • Complimentary coffee at Baked
  • Use of Fitness Center and Indoor Pool (with free personal training sessions available 6AM – 11AM, TRX class 7AM to 8AM, and yoga studio upon request)
  • Access to over 5,000 newspapers and magazines with Press Reader

Meanwhile, the following added features are present in the bigger rooms:

  • Living room area
  • Dining area
  • Servant’s quarters
  • Walk-in closet
  • Office area
  • Access to Club Lounge

– AMENITIES –

Gym. Open 24 hours, this facility has all the equipment that you will ever need for maintaining your fitness goals. Should you ever need professional trainers, they are available from 6AM to 11PM.

TRX Studio. Situated near the gym, this studio focuses on exercises that help develop your strength and core stability using your own body weight. As a guest, you can join the daily classes for free from 7AM to 8AM. Just make sure to reserve ahead of time since there are limited slots.

Indoor Lap Pool. From 7AM to 9PM, this area is open for you to enjoy!

Spa. You could opt to either take a message in the facility or in your room (available from 3PM to 2AM). I ordered for the in-room massage during my stay and it was amazing. The masseuse assigned to me had truly given me the best relaxation that I could ever get!

Yoga Studio. This part of the hotel is available upon request.

Club Lounge. To list out the complete privileges that you’ll get from this impeccable space via booking the bigger rooms, you’ll get: use of meeting rooms for 2 hours, use of private cinema for 2 hours per stay, complimentary city calls, complimentary use of gadgets, shoe shine service, use of private dining area, a bar lounge, and a Whisky and Cigar Bar.

– DINING –

Alfred. Named after the good ol’ famous butler that we all know, this restaurant that’s located at the first floor of the hotel offers an all-day dining service, serving Continental and Asian dishes. (This is also the area where breakfast is typically served for guests).

Baked. Dubbed as the hotel’s specialty bakery, it offers delectable pastries from Maison Kayser, tea from TWG Tea, and coffee beans from Toby’s Estate Coffee. (Open 6AM to 9PM).

– INFO –

Booking: See the BEST deals and prices for Makati Diamond Residences at Agoda!

Address: 118 Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City 1229 Philippines

Hotel Classification: 5-Star

Check-In: 2:00PM / Check-Out: 12:00PM
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Overall

My stay at the Makati Diamond Residences was more than I could have hoped for! Besides, it made me feel right at home as it gave me an abode that helped me make the most of my stay in the bustling metropolis — albeit for a short while.

That being said, if you’re looking for a comfortable yet luxurious stay that will provide you with all the amenities and features of a homey experience, the Makati Diamond Residences can handle such a need! You can’t get a better deal than this anywhere in Makati… so come and book your stay NOW!

BOOK WITH MAKATI DIAMOND RESIDENCES

How about you?

  • What do you think of the Makati Diamond Residences?
  • Would you like to book with them when you’re in the Philippines? Why or why not?
  • Or have you stayed in Makati Diamond Residences before? How was it?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

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When I made a brief trip to the Philippines last April to visit family and friends, I encountered a small dilemma: “Where am I going to stay?”

Of course the natural response would be: “At my parent’s house!” Regrettably however, my folks’ house is way far from the city center of Manila! In order to enjoy my trip to the fullest, it was best for me to base myself in Makati so that I can easily meet up not only with my family but with friends too.

I was only going to be there for less than a week — tops — that’s why time was crucial. After all, I didn’t mind shelling out extra money in order to get my own place that’s near to ‘everything’.

So since Makati was ultimately the ‘place to be’ for me, my dilemma was swiftly erased and that’s because it was absolutely easy to think of the best accommodation for me! Where else but at Dusit Thani Manila?

– HOTEL & SERVICE –

Prime Location. Towering beside Ayala Station in Edsa, this upscale hotel is just minutes away from some of the top 4 malls in the metro, namely: SM Makati, Glorietta, Landmark, and Greenbelt. Given this fact, you’re surely surrounded by a lot of options that can keep you entertained, fulfilled, and refreshed.

Besides, Dusit Thani is smacked right in the heart of the capital’s major financial, commercial and economic hub which is Makati. Needless to say and like what I’ve already mentioned above, you’re going to be absolutely near to almost ‘everything‘ that you might ever need during your stay.

Exquisite Furnishings. Dusit Thani is at its core a Thai-themed hotel and from the moment that I stepped into their lobby, I was greeted with big smiles by their staff who were clad in traditional clothing — which was quite a sight! This was followed by an astonishing golden display of their lobby which made perfect harmony of old and modern elements. Right then and there… I knew that I was in for a treat!

Superb Service Like No Other. This is the part where I knew that I made a great choice by booking myself into Dusit Thani.

When I checked in, I was a tad too early; but they were hospitable enough in doing their best in finding a room for me and making their cleaning staff tidy it all up asap. Unfortunately though, disaster stroke when I got into my room because it reeked of cigarette smoke!

It was so bad… so I was immensely disappointed as I went back downstairs to the lobby to inform them of the mishap. (At that time, I was starting to think that I’ve probably made the wrong hotel choice.)

I was calm and collected as I explained to them the condition of my room; however, the staff weren’t. They were so anxious and apologetic! Now it took a while before I was finally placed into a new room. Naturally, I was still disappointed — until… the girl before me mentioned the word ‘upgraded‘.

She didn’t exactly say what upgrade I got, so in my mind I was all: “It could be one level up like an executive room. It doesn’t matter really as long as it doesn’t smell bad.”

But ‘lo and behold ladies and gentlemen… when I stuck in my keys and entered my designated room, I was floored: they gave me a spacious executive suite!!!

Every fiber of my being felt like running back to the lobby and hugging the staff person that assisted me because what was displayed before was more than enough of a ‘sorry’! Truth be told, this was my first ever upgrade and my first ever suite, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was — more so because this was truly a kind of service that made up for the hassle that I was initially put through.

Dusit Thani Manila, you guys are simply amazing and I definitely don’t regret picking you because I have clearly made the right choice! ;)

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– ACCOMMODATION –

There are various room types available in Dusit Thani (which you will see below). Rest assured, every room is curated with urban dwellers in mind; therefore the style and comfort which you will see and experience will definitely be paramount!

Deluxe Room – 30 sqm

Premier Room – 30 sqm

Grand Room – 73 sqm

*Club Executive Suite – 73 sqm

*Club Premier Room – 30 sqm

Premier Executive Suite – 73 sqm

Junior Suite – 45 sqm

*Royal Suite – 129 sqm

*Presidential Suite – 187 sqm

*Includes access to Dusit Club Lounge, an exclusive 900sqm facility at the topmost floor of the hotel.

As a standard though, every room has at least the following features:

  • Complimentary wired and wireless high-speed internet
  • Complimentary daily replenishment of bottled water
  • Mini bar
  • Coffee/tea making facilities
  • Spacious work desk with ergonomic chair
  • Cable television with in-room entertainment system
  • Complete bath amenities (hairdryer, bathrobes, bedroom slippers and toiletry set)
  • Weighing scale
  • Iron and ironing board
  • In-room safe
  • Blackout curtains

  • Bedside and bathroom telephone
  • Bedside control panel with pilot reading lights
  • Selection of daily international and local newspapers and magazines
  • Pillow menu
  • Connecting rooms available upon request
  • Complimentary access to fitness centre, pool and sauna
  • Shoeshine service available upon request
  • Babysitting service upon request
  • Bible
  • Prayer mats available upon request / Kiblah

– AMENITIES –

DFiT Fitness Center. This place offers one of the best appointed centers of fitness in the country. With 973 square meters of state-of-the-art studio areas and sauna to meet any individual’s fitness and wellness goals.

Swimming Pool with Sun Deck. Where adults and kids can have some fun under the sun! You will also find here a small bar and pavilion area that often hosts programs and events.

Devarana Spa. A peaceful sanctuary of anti-stress and relaxation like no other! This is truly one of the best havens for spa lovers in the metro that’s worth trying out.

Business Centre. As the name suggests, this is a go-to place for professionals who need some quite time to do business and/or computer work processes.

Meeting Rooms and Event Halls. Dusit Thani has various meeting rooms for private meetings and small gatherings. When it comes to bigger events, they have the Mayuree Grand Ballroom (which can take in up to 1,000 guests) and the Poolside Pavilion Tent (for up to 300-400 guests).

Florist / Gift Shops / Beauty Salon.

– DINING –

Dusit Thani is actually one of the city’s culinary hubs; hence, you can indulge in an eclectic mix of cuisines right in the comfort of this luxurious hotel!

The Pantry. Using only organic and locally-sourced produce and ingredients, The Pantry serves a mix of great Asian dishes. (This is also the area where breakfast is typically served). One corner has a ‘Grab & Go’ cafe area, and in the other, a bar space that’s ideal for get-togethers or after dinner drinks.

Umu Japanese Restaurant. Using only organic and locally-sourced produce and ingredients, The Pantry serves a mix of Asian dishes. This is also the area where breakfast is typically served. One corner also has a ‘Grab & Go’ cafe area as well as a  bar space that’s ideal for get-togethers or after dinner drinks.

Benjarong Thai Restaurant. As it is a Thai hotel, of course, there has to be a superb Thai restaurant in the premises — and that’s where Benjarong comes in. The menu features classic mouth-watering Thai recipes, partnered with a service staff that is all clad in traditional silk costumes.

– INFO –

Booking: See the BEST deals and prices for Dusit Thani at Agoda!

Address: Ayala Centre, 1223 Makati City Metro Manila, Philippines

Hotel Classification: 5-Star

Check-In: 2:00PM / Check-Out: 12PM
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Overall

My stay at Dusit Thani Manila may have been short, but it was an absolutely pleasant staycation, which therefore made it an unforgettable experience in itself!

Add the way that they have went above and beyond to make up for their mistake upon my check-in, then I can say with confidence — and without a doubt — that Dusit Thani Manila is the kind of hotel that regard their guests’ satisfaction as a prime priority.

First-class comfort. Perfect convenience. Timeless style. Prime service. Dusit Thani Manila surely has it all covered!

So what are you waiting for…? Come and book your stay NOW!

BOOK WITH DUSIT THANI

NOTE: Some images are from Dusit Thani Manila.

How about you?

  • What do you think of Dusit Thani?
  • Would you like to book with them when you’re in the Philippines? Why or why not??
  • Or have you stayed in Dusit Thani Manila before? How was it?

Did you like this article? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and be notified about my newest posts and updates!

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Back in 2013, I was whisked away to Bohol by my friend, Joanne, when she gave me the opportunity to be her +1 for her sponsored travel trip (at that time, I was not running this blog yet since this was launched a year after).

We had an amazing time in that magical island in Visayas — but there was one activity we did which I realized was an unethical for-profit business, AND which I unknowingly supported… It was the time when we visited the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area.

Let me explain…
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What Is a Tarsier?

A tarsier is a primate (think apes and monkeys) that belongs to a 45-million-year-old animal family called as Tarsiidae. Their group used to be more widespread; but today, they are officially recognized as endangered species that are predominantly found in Southeast Asia such as the places of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

As you will see from the photos in this post, they hold a distinct characteristic: a small body with BIG eyes. (The way I see it, they’re like a cuddly-looking smaller version of Yoda… Don’t you agree?) Anyhow, for the rest of this post, we will focus on the Philippine tarsier which is mainly seen in Bohol.

Here are some more interesting facts about them:

  • Smallest primate. The Philippine tarsier measures at around 3 to 6 inches tall; thereby making it the smallest primate there is. Naturally, they are very hard to spot in the forests.
  • Largest eye-to-body ratio in all mammals which gives them great night vision. During the day, their eyes can constrict until their pupil will only look like a thin line; in the dark though, their pupil can dilate and fill up their entire eye.
  • Fixed eyes. Their eyes are fixed into their skull so they cannot turn their eye sockets, instead their neck allows them to rotate their head 180°!
  • Solitary, shy, and territorial. Leading a mostly hidden life, a male tarsier needs at least 6 hectares of space and a female tarsier needs at least 2 hectares. If other tarsiers come into their territory, they will fight for it, and it can often lead to the death of the other.
  • Nocturnal. They become active only at night and it is only during this time that they will crost paths with other tarsiers when they hunt for their food — mostly insects.
  • Arboreal, meaning that they love to cling vertically to trees and branches as they leap from branch to branch.

How did tarsiers become endangered?

Because of several threats:

  1. Habitat destruction. The dwindling of the forests which are the tarsiers’ natural habitat had truly posed a significant threat to their survival.
  2. Human hunters & pet trades. Tarsiers don’t do well when in captivity since they can easily and quickly turn suicidal as they try to break free: they will willingly bash their heads in, which then leads to their death. Too much noise, sunlight, and physical contact from foreign things (us humans) can also over-stress them, which then leads to suicide as well.
  3. Predators. Other than humans, some of their ‘enemies’ are house or domesticated cats, snakes, owls, large birds, and other smaller carnivores.

In order to help preserve the Philippine tarsier, a law has been passed that made it illegal to own a tarsier; unless when it is for educational and conservation purposes.
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Why Avoid the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area?

The Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area is a popular destination among tourists mainly because of its close proximity to Bohol’s famed spots like the Loboc man-made forest and the “Chocolate Hills“. It is also often a part of the packaged tours in the island, hence the reason why this became one of our experiences during our grand tour in Bohol.

My tour there was somehow interesting though (at first) since it was my first time to see a tarsier after all; but moments after we finished our tour, I had the gnawing realization that they were housing tarsiers in such poor conditions.

And as I did further research days after our trip, I even found out that they are NOT an official tarsier sanctuary!

#1 – They are a non-official tarsier sanctuary

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation is the main non-profit private organization in the Philippines  that seeks to protect the Philippine tarsier. It has strong support from the two leading ecotourism organizations in the country: DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and DOT (Department of Tourism).

With this in mind, here’s a NEWSFLASH for you: the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area is NOT an official sanctuary area, and it is NOT supported nor run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.

This was pretty apparent anyway because…

#2 – The tarsiers are kept captive in poor conditions

I have heard that the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area used to be smaller, and cages tarsiers; but at the time of my visit, they have ‘prided’ themselves for the larger space that they have and how their tarsiers are not “caged”.

However, no matter what they say or do, the fact remains that the tarsiers are held captive in this small viewing area. There may not be visible high walls to keep them in their land, but it’s apparent how they are caged before every ‘viewing day’.

You see, they have a pathway surrounding their compound which leads to certain tree spots where you can see the tarsiers. Obviously, they are placed there everyday for the tourists to see. Just look at the makeshift “roof” that each of these tarsiers have! That’s not natural… unless all these tarsiers built them or something. Ha – haaaa, no.

They seemingly can’t roam around either (I bet they control them so they don’t escape) and all of them were wide awake (remember how they should be nocturnal).

This is really no surprise since other than the factors I’ve already mentioned, the branches that they are in are somehow very close to the tourists — to give people the better chance to take photos of them of course. Hence, the tarsiers are basically subjected to human presence and noise for almost every minute and THIS would surely cause them constant stress!

Stress = high death rate = less chances of reproduction.

If I may add, these tarsiers who are perched on their own branches were in such close proximity to one another, which then goes against their need for ample territorial space. (Well, this place was a small area after all.)

Naturally, because of these reasons and more, I do NOT recommend visiting the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area. (Additionally, I’m just wondering why this area continues to exist because by law, owning tarsiers is illegal unless its for educational and conservation purposes. Though this place may claim itself as a conservation area, their conditions are far from ‘conserving’ the tarsiers — so I beg to differ.)
.

What is a Better Alternative?

If you still want to see the endangered Philippine tarsiers, I suggest that you rather visit the official place run by the Philippine Tarsier Foundation: the Tarsier Research and Development Center in Corella, Bohol (also called as the The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary, in case you want to see their reviews on TripAdvisor).

NOTE: To help you differentiate, the unethical one is located in Loboc; whereas this official sanctuary is located in Corella.

Here in Corella, you can choose to do 2 things: see and observe the tarsiers in an enclosure, or in their natural habitat through the Tarsier Trail.

Rest assured, the net enclosure is only where they keep the tarsiers during feeding, breeding and display. It’s actually a free environment and it’s only enclosed to keep possible predators (cats, etc.). Besides, the tarsiers can jump out if it whenever they want to. In here, you are also allowed to take pictures without flash but only quietly so as not to disturb the tarsiers who are asleep.

The Tarsier Trail, on the other hand, is a pathway that goes through a 134-hectare area of wilderness — you can hike through it with a guide in order to try and catch a glimpse of a Philippine tarsier in the wild (while also acquainting yourself with the local flora and fauna).

» How to get there?

This Tarsier Sanctuary is located 14 km from Tagbilaran (provincial capital of Corella) and 20 km from Loboc. To get here, you can take a bus that goes to Sikatuna. From there, you just need to walk in until you see their ticketing office.

(You can also ask your hotel for directions. Just remember to stress that you want to go to the one in Corella and NOT Loboc.)

» Further Details

Website: [link]
Opening Hours
: 9.00 to 16.00
Ticket Price: Php 50 ($1) guided tour inside the enclosure
Time for Visit: 30-60 minutes
Rules: No flashes. Keep your voice low. NO touching of the tarsiers. Don’t stay too long in one tarsier (5 minutes will do).
Trail: As it is a natural environment, expect the trail to be muddy when it rains. Umbrellas are not allowed if it rains so bring a rain coat if ever.
Trivia: You can also volunteer here! It will be a great experience to learn more about tarsiers.
.

Overall

As travelers, I find it imperative for us to exercise responsible tourism. Therefore, I urge you to take the alternative and avoid supporting businesses — such as that of the Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area — that do not contribute to the well-being and survival of endangered tarsiers.

I know that we all want to be “up-and-close” to such animals who are unique, and that’s fine. But only for as long as we make the conscious effort to ensure that our actions are not contributing to the problem, but rather contributing to a solution.

That being said, I also hope that you help spread this to others who are planning to visit Bohol so that they can make an informed choice!

How about you?

  • What do you think about this situation? Do you agree with my points?
  • Do you know of any other unethical places towards animals?

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The post Why You Should Avoid Loboc Tarsier Conservation Area in Bohol, Philippines appeared first on I am Aileen.

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