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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tripadvisor's Top 25 Beaches in Asia

Being a Filipino, I am proud that Boracay was at the number 1 spot in Tripadvisor's list of Top 25 Beaches in Asia according to Traveler's Choice 2013.  Boracay also placed at #24 as being the best beach in the World.

Eventhough Boracay was already crowded and too commercialized, there as still people who are smitten by its beauty, just like me. I have always been to Boracay almost every year since 2007 and yet I still find it a beautiful place and relaxing at the same time (especially if you stay in Sation 1 at the White Beach). For me, Boracay can be considered as one of your best bet if you want to stay away from the busy and stressful life in Manila.

For those who have been to Boracay since the 90's and come back again at this time, I'm sure you will comment on how greatly it has changed.  Just like any other destinations, when it became popular and well visited by tourists, its beauty may slowly deteriorate.  With this, I hope the government, the locals in Boracay and the tourists especially the Filipinos will do their part in preserving the beauty of Boracay.  Let's all help in keeping Boracay as the number one beach, not only in Asia but also in the world.

To view other top beaches in Asia for 2013, click here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Review: 5R Rooms For Rent in Tagaytay

Following my blog on our impromptu trip in Tagaytay last weekend, here is where we landed, 5R Rooms for Rent.  Good thing I previously researched on various budget accommodations in Tagaytay (see related post here).  So I just choose among these.  As mentioned, my first choice was Java Jazz Lodging House.  But since contact details were no longer available in the site I've posted, it would really be a walk-in style to find an accommodation.

Unfortunately, when we got there, Java Jazz Lodging House is already fully booked since they only have 3 rooms available.  So we walk further and found Keni Po, 5R Rooms for Rent and Little Falls Inn.  We tried our luck in 5R thinking that Keni Po is fully booked (which happens all the time whenever I inquired from them).  And yes, we were lucky.  There were a lot of rooms available in 5R.  Rooms available then were at Php 1,200 and Php 1,500.  According to the receptionist, the only difference is the bed size but still can accommodate 2 persons.  So we availed the cheaper one.

entrance to 5R with ample parking space

Our room number is 8 and we were located at the back of the building, second floor.  I'd like to compare Famous Inn and 5R since I find some similarities on both accommodation.  For reference, you may refer to this blog on my review on Famous Inn.

The room and toilet
5R and Famous Inn's room and toilet size are almost the same, though Famous Inn is slightly bigger.  Both have mirrors on the side of the bed, again, a motel-like accommodation in Tagaytay.  Both toilets have some drainage problems.  I've experience clogged drainage in the bath side at Famous Inn while clogged sink at 5R.

mirror beside the bed

5R's room is somehow cleaner than Famous Inn since we don't get to see any ants or insects crawling.  But the bedsheets and pillows seems clean on both lodging house.  The airconditioning on these two were just right.  Famous Inn, however, have a standby electric fan in case you wouldn't want to use the aircon.

In 5R, the towels provided were much thicker and seems cleaner than in Famous Inn.  Toilet paper was new and not left over.  A small soap was also included in 5R.

blanket, towels, tissue and soap
narrow toilet of 5R

Other amenities
5R have a swimming pool located at the other side of the building at the back.  Around the swimming pool area are cottages where you can stay and eat.  I saw somebody grilling but I'm not sure if its part of 5R's amenities.  There is also parking lot in that area.

entrance at the pool area with parking space

the pool at 5R

panoramic view of the pool area
The area of 5R is much bigger that's why it can accommodate more guests due to a lot of rooms available.  The only downside is that there is no wifi in 5R.

Overall, our stay at 5R is ok.  I prefer 5R over Famous Inn but my boyfriend prefers the latter.  The reason I prefer 5R is that its cleaner with no insects crawling.  The towel provided is "useable" than that of Famous Inn.  Added points is the swimming pool although we were not able to try it.  Similar to Famous Inn, if sleeping in a motel-like accommodation is ok with you but with added amenities such as swimming pool and  you're on a tight budget then I recommend 5R.  But if your budget is below Php 1,000 then you can opt to stay in Famous Inn than 5R.

I hope this review can help :)
You may check 5R's new website here for contacts and further details.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Underwater Camera: Sony Cybershot DSC-TF1 - A Review

Meet my new baby, Sony Cybershot DSC-TF1.  She is just 4 days old.  She was bought out of necessity, a day before my beach trip in Camaya Coast in Bataan.

I let go of my almost 3-year old (very cheap) underwater camera, Fujifilm Finepix Z33 WP.  I bought this for just Php 5,000 in  It is still in very good condition and I was still able to use it in my last Surigao trip during Holy Week.  When I asked my friend if she's interested to buy it, she immediately reserved the item and will pay me in installment every pay day.  I had no choice but to, of course, find a replacement for my Fujifilm underwater camera.

My choices were quite few as my budget is only Php 10,000 or less.  I found Olympus TG 630 and Sony Cybershot DSC- TF1 to fit my budget.  Sony Cybershot attracts me more.  Even if the reviews were not so superior on the Sony camera, I still pursue in buying it.  Actually, the reviews on both underwater cameras were not really good.  Well, I still have my almost 2 year old Nikon Coolpix P300, which I super love and no plans of letting it go (I have blog post about it here and here) I found this review on various underwater camera helpful.

As I've mentioned, even though the reviews were not so great on Sony DSC-TF1, I still decided to buy one.  What attracts me most is its Panorama option and beauty shot. Plus you can instantly beautify your pictures and edit them.  Now, let's actually try to use this new baby!

The Review

Usability.  It is not hard to use this camera.  Although, its quite difficult to press the buttons especially the delete option.  But overall, its still easy to use.

Design.  I like how it has a rubberized frame on top and bottom of the camera.  I'm not sure about other underwater cameras but my Fujifilm doesn't have that.  Maybe because my previous camera is just waterproof and not shock proof.  Unlike this Sony Cybershot DSC-TF1, it is also shock proof, dust proof and freeze proof.  Sony is also more ergonomically designed that Fujifilm.

Portability.  The size is almost the same as my Fujifilm but Sony is quite heavier.  I think this is because of the rubberized frame.  In terms of screen size, both are at 2.7".

Picture Quality.  For regular shots or pictures, Sony delivers clearer and more high quality pictures.  The colors stands out more than in my Fujifilm.  Although, there are shots that seems too bright.  I don't know if its in the settings but I found that some pictures were adjusted automatically so it won't appear too whitish (apologies as I am no photographer, I don't know the terms).  I like the focus capability of this camera.  Even if the subject is moving, you won't get blurred pictures.  It has this iAuto function which makes taking pictures a breeze as it automatically adjust to whatever your subject or surroundings are.  I also like the panoramic option.  It gives bigger output as compared to the panoramic shot with my Nikon.  For underwater shots, I haven't tried taking pictures underwater particularly those with fishes and corals.  Although, I've taken underwater shots in shallow beach area and in the pool.  I'm not sure if the waters were just not clear that's why it reflects in the result of the pictures.

Battery.  At full charge and used mostly on beach and underwater shots, it just took me 1 day before I got a low battery sign.  It seems battery life is not so reliable.  However, I appreciate that the camera battery can be charged by USB plugged into my laptop.  I cannot do this with my Fujifilm.

Overall, I'm still liking my Sony Cybershot DSC-TF1, except for the battery life.  Now I can take pictures just using one camera (for those quick trips).  Aperture for this camera is not so great as my Nikon Coolpix P300 which takes clearer picture at low lighting.  I'll post sample pictures soon in my succeeding blog post.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Surigao Adventure: Itinerary

Here is our itinerary for our Surigao Adventure happened last Holy Week, March 28-April 1, 2013.  Some of the time indicated are estimates.

Day 1:
9:30am - Arrival in Butuan
Travel to Surigao City, alight in Badas Junction
Travel from Badas to Claver
Check in Revlun Pension House
Late lunch at G-ann

Day 2:
7am - travel to Hayanggabon via habal-habal
8am to 5pm - Bucas Grande Tour
Tiktikan Lake
Crystal Cave
Bolitas Cave
a beach (I forgot the name)
Hagukan Cove
Magkukuob Cove / Diving Cave
Jellyfish Sanctuary
Coral Reefs Snorkeling
Island hoping: Club Tara, Hidden Resort, and one island (forgot the name)
Back at Revlun Pension House

Day 3:
6am - check out Revlun, travel to Tinuy-an Falls in Surigao del Sur via Butuan
3pm - arrival in Tinuy-an Falls
5:30pm - depart for Britannia
(see transportation details here)
Check in at La Entrada in Britannia, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur

Day 4:
8am - island hopping in Britannia
12noon - check out La Entrada, travel to Hinatuan via habal-habal
2pm - arrival in Enchanted River
4pm - depart in Hinatuan for Butuan
8pm - arrival in Butuan, check in at Juliann's Inn

Day 5:
6am - check out at Juliann's Inn
8:15am - flight back to Manila from Butuan

For details of transportation from one province/location to another, please refer to this blog post.  Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River visit is feasible in 1 day.  If only we were able to leave early in the morning to travel to Surigao del Sur, we will be able to visit Tinuy-an Falls and Enchanted River the same day.  This was our initial plan so that on the 4th day, we'll just relax in Britannia Group of Islands.

Here are the details of our Surigao Adventure trip:
Day 1
Day 2 

Backpacking in Tagaytay: Impromptu Trip

This weekend, my boyfriend and I had an impromptu trip in Tagaytay.  We don't have any reservation and we just decided to just scout there using the information I have posted before.  I have blogged about budget accommodations in Tagaytay last year.  So it won't be difficult for us to search for accommodations when we arrive there.  Just for assurance, we called up Famous Inn, where we stayed last year, a few hours before we arrive in Tagaytay.  Luckily, they still have available rooms.  But I wanted to try other accommodations in my list, so our choices where Java Jazz Lodging House and 5R Rooms for Rent.

Before I continue, let me just add information on our transportation.  Last year, as posted in my blog, we rode vans in Pasay, at the street before Metropoint coming from Edsa southbound.  This time, we rode vans in Alabang.  This is near the market and it is actually bus and van terminal.  All are southbound (Laguna and Batangas).  The van we rode is routed in Sta. Rosa, Nuvali, Tagaytay, Picnic Grove.  It can also drop you Enchanted Kingdom.  Travel time is about 1 hour.  Fare is Php 75 per person but if you will be dropped off to Picnic Grove, you will add Php 20 per person.  Even if we will not alight in Picnic Grove, we still paid additional Php 20.  We alighted near Java Jazz Lodging House.

Java Jazz is actually a coffee shop but they added some lodging to better accommodate tourist.  However, they only have 3 rooms so when we got there, it was booked already.  It is also interesting to know that Java Jazz Lodging House is not connected to  I wonder how they were included in agoda upon my research last year.  This is what I saw posted on their door.

And to all my readers, finally, here's the Java Jazz Lodging House contact number, 0917-4837399 or you can email them at  I already lost my phone book before so I apologize to my readers when I cannot give them contact details.  It seems like have revamped their website and some contact details were gone.

So the next we inquired was at 5R Rooms for Rent.  Luckily, they still have a lot of rooms available.  You can read my review on this lodging house here.

Here are other information I would like to add:
  • Java Jazz Lodging House is located before T House Bed and Breakfast if you're coming from Sta. Rosa Exit.  This is at the left side of the road.
  • From Java Jazz Lodging House, Keni Po and 5R Rooms for Rent are just walking distance.  They are all on the left  side; Keni Po first then 5R Rooms for Rent.
  • You can easily see Keni Po and 5R Rooms for Rent as they both have big sign boards.  Maybe competing with each other as both have pools and open 24 hours.  They just really beside each other.
  • Little Falls Inn is in front of 5R Rooms for Rent
  • Overlook Inn is just beside Bag of Beans
I hope these additional information will be helpful.  The weather when we went there is still cool.  The sun still shines with all its might come lunch time but the wind is somehow cool.  In the evening, it gets chilly on some nights.  Maybe because this weekend, there were slight rain experienced in Tagaytay.  For me, Tagaytay is still your best getaway not far from Manila, yet cool enough to beat the summer heat.

Updated (11/20/2016): contact details of Java Jazz

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Surigao Adventure: Transportation, map and research

It was in some cable channel when I first saw the beautiful tourist spots in Caraga Region.  What attracts me most was the Tinuy-An Falls and Enchanted River.  These are situated in Surigao del Sur.  At an instant, I put Surigao in my soon to visit province.  Luckily, I was able to spot a promo fare going to Butuan (cheaper than a flight going to Surigao City or Siargao) last year and booked flight for me and my boyfriend without asking his permission yet, hehe.  From initial research, I learned that Butuan is nearer to Surigao del Sur, about 5 hours travel than in Surigao City which is 7 hours travel.

It was quite a challenge to research for itineraries, expenses and tours for our 5-day Surigao trip.  The famous destinations I've heard and read in Surigao Islands are Bucas Grande, Siargao beaches and surfing sites, Enchanted River, Tinuy-An Falls, Britania Group of Islands and Cagwait beach (Boracay of the Caraga Region).  I wanted to visit all these but 5 days is not enough.

I first draft our itineraries visiting all the famous destinations above.  Considering the travel time and our flight schedule.  I know I won't be able to visit them in 5 days.  It was unfortunate that the flight we got on the first day was at 9am arrival to Butuan and the flight back to Manila on the fifth day was changed by PAL Express to 8am instead of 11am.

Before I go on, let me share this map to you.  This is the Caraga Region.  I got it from google search but I forget from which site. 

Caraga Region
Let's do a little Geography 101.  These locations will be mentioned throughout this blog (and succeeding blogs about Surigao) so you may refer to these from time to time.

  • Placer, Surigao del Norte - this is where Badas junction is 
  • Claver, Surigao del Norte - this is where the Hayanggabon port is situated
  • Socorro, Surigao del Norte - located in Bucas Grande Island, part of Siargao
  • Surigao City, Surigao del Norte - flights with name "Surigao" is located here
  • Cagwait, Surigao del Sur - this is where the Boracay of Caraga Region is located
  • San Agustin, Surigao del Sur - where Britannia Group of Islands is located
  • Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur - where Enchanted River is located
  • Bislig, Surigao del Sur - where Tinuy-an Falls is located
  • Butuan, Augsan del Norte - alternate flight if you want to visit Surigao


Based from research, from Butuan City, its a 3 hour bus or van ride going to Surigao City where the pick up point going to Bucas Grande or Siargao is nearer.  All the while I thought, you need to ride a ferry (which is only up to 12 noon) going to Bucas Grande or Siargao.  With this schedule, we won't be able to catch the 12 noon last trip as we expect to be in Surigao by that time. Good thing I contacted several boatmen and they've suggested the easier way to go to Bucas Grande, through Badas junction in Placer, Surigao del Norte.

From Butuan airport, you can ride a multicab to take you to Butuan terminal. This is just a 20-minute ride. From the terminal, ride a bus going to Surigao City but tell the driver that you will alight in Badas Junction in Placer.  Travel time is about 2-3 hours.

Alternately, from the airport, you can ride a van going to Surigao City. It will only take you 2 hours to get to Badas junction.

From Badas, ride a van going to Hayanggabon.  Travel time is about 1 hour. Hayanggabon is where the port of pump boats are located going to Bucas Grande.  This is also the pick up point for the Bucas Grande/Sohoton tour.  In case you haven't contacted any boatman for your Bucas Grande tour, you can ask assistance from the Hayanggabon tourism center, which is located at the port. Boatmen can also take you to Socorro from this point.

In case your flight is from Surigao City, you can just ride a van/bus going to Hayanggabon.  Travel time is about 3 hours.


We contacted a boatman to tour us in Bucas Grande.  Pick up and drop off point is at Hayanggabon port.  In case we have an accommodation in Socorro, the boatman can pick up us at Bucas Grande and lead us to Socorro.  This can then be the starting point and drop off point for Bucas Grande tour.

Since its already lunch time when we arrived in Claver, we just stayed in one of the known accommodation near to the terminal, Revlun Pension House.

From Revlun Pension House, we rode habal-habal going to Hayanggabon port.  Travel time is 20 minutes.  Fare is 200 pesos for 2.  You can opt to ride a tricycle which is cheaper.  That time it was a Good Friday, so tricycle were scarce.

Boat from Hayanggabon to Bucas Grande is about 45 minutes, where our first stop was at Tiktikan Lake.  More details of our Bucas Grande tour in the next blog post.

Since our Bucas Grande tour was just day trip, we went back to Claver using same transportation and route.


We don't know if there's a bus in Claver bound to Bislig or to any province in Surigao del Sur.  We saw buses going to Tandag but from there, we don't know how do we get to Bislig, Hinatuan or San Agustin.  Also, since its holy week, there's not much buses waiting at Claver terminal to travel in Surigao del Sur.

So from Claver, we took the same route and rode the same transportation going to Butuan: van to Badas junction (1 hour), van from Badas junction to Butuan (2 hours).  There are also available buses in Badas junction going to Butuan.

From Butuan Terminal, there are buses going to Bislig but the sign board in the buses is Mangagoy.  This is the bus route to ride going to Tinuy-an Falls. 


As mentioned, from Butuan Terminal, there are buses going to Bislig (Tinuy-An Falls) but the sign board that you will see is Mangagoy and not Bislig.  The same bus route will also take you to Hinatuan where Enchanted River is located.

Butuan Terminal also have buses going to CDO and Davao.  Just for additional info.  Within the vicinity of the terminal, there are also van terminals going to CDO, Davao and many others.  I wasn't able to see them all as we were on the road when I saw it.  Also, there are vans that offers direct to Mangagoy trip.  I'm just not sure if its safe to ride there.

From Butuan to Mangagoy, travel time is around 5 hours.  The trip could have been shorten if there will be no bus stops.  It seems that the bus alight at all bus terminals of different municipalities.  Well, maybe because that's a provincial bus and the only available public transport to travel from one location to another.

You will alight at the last bus stop, Mangagoy, if you will be going to Tinuy-An Falls.  If you will be going to Enchanted River, you will alight at Hinatuan, that's about 4th or 3rd to the last bus stop.


From Mangagoy bus terminal, there are habal-habal available that offers ride going to Tinuy-An falls.  Travel time is about 30 minutes.  Roads can be rough going to the falls.


Since its already past 4pm when we finished touring Tinuy-An Falls, we will no longer be able to catch the operating hours of Enchanted River in Hinatuan.  This tourist spot closes at 5pm.  From research, travel from Tinuy-An Falls to Enchanted River is about 1 hour.  So we just decided to go to Britannia and just schedule Enchanted River the next day, as our last stop, before going back to Butuan.

The last trip of the buses going to Butuan at Mangagoy terminal is at 5.30pm.  This is the same bus route that we will ride going to Britannia.  We rode the same bus and alighted at Barobo terminal and wait for bus going to Tandag.  From Mangagoy to Barobo, travel time is 2 hours.

At Barobo terminal, we looked for bus going to Tandag.  We asked the driver to drop us at Barangay Salvacion, San Agustin.  Travel time is 1 hour.  It was already dark when we alighted at Barangay Salvacion.  We have no idea how do we get to our accommodation in Britannia (La Entrada to be specific).  Good thing there are habal-habal waiting at a waiting shed where we alighted in Brgy. Salvacion so we just asked them for instructions.  There are sign boards also about Britannia and some accommodations when we alighted so somehow I knew we were not lost.  The habal-habal took us to La Entrada.  Travel time is only about 5-8 minutes.


I know we will be taking the same route if we plan to go back to Hinatuan.  That will be to ride a bus going to Barobo terminal then transfer to a bus bound to Butuan and alight at Hinatuan.  Or we can just wait for a bus bound for Butuan in Brgy. Salvacion and ask the driver to drop us off at Hinatuan.  This route will take us about 2.5 to 3 hours travel time.  Since we are after the shortest time to go to Hinatuan, the night before, we conversed with the habal-habal driver and he offered his service to take us at Hinatuan for just 2 hours or less.  We grabbed that offer even if we will to pay a little bit more.

Aside from what I mentioned, route from San Agustin to Hinatuan, when you get to Hinatuan terminal, there are tricycle and habal-habal available to take you to Enchanted River.  Travel time is about an hour or less.  You will encounter rough road going to Enchanted River but this is better than the road going to Tinuy-an Falls.


The habal-habal we hire took us to Hinatuan terminal where we waited for a bus bound to Butuan.  From Hinatuan to Butuan, travel time is about 4 hours.

All the buses we took were non-airconditioned.  Please watch out for my succeeding blog post on our Surigao Adventure :)    For the meantime, you might want to check our itinerary on this Surigao Adventure trip.