Surprises in Manila


I’ve been living in Metro Manila for almost 12 years now yet I realize there is still a lot I do not know about it especially its capital, Manila. It actually took an invite from a friend from Cebu to go out of my apartment on a rainy day and realize that…

…San Agustin Church has a very dramatic altar. I’ve passed this church several times but it was only yesterday that I sat inside the church for awhile and absorbed its altar’s beauty.

12 years in Metro Manila yet I found myself stepping on this church for the first time.

A post shared by Melissa Bulao (@milaiski) on

 

Continue reading “Surprises in Manila”

New Year and Philippine Waterfalls


It might be too late to greet everyone a “Happy New Year”, but hey a happy new year to you! 🙂 How was your new year? Mine was pretty uneventful. I spent it in my hometown in Bicol, waited for the clock to strike 12 on the the 31st of December, then I slept. Even my blog was uneventful. For the first time, I did not write a year-end post.

Anyway, to start this blog’s year and to lessen my travel diary backlogs, I thought of sharing some of the waterfalls I’ve been to in the Philippines. The Philippines is not only blessed with beautiful beaches but with bodies of freshwater such as lakes, waterfalls and rivers. It’s a good  idea to check these out and include them in your must-visit list this 2016:

  1. Hagimit Falls 
Gentle slopes
Hagimit Falls

Hagitmit Falls is found in the island of Samal in Davao del Norte. One interesting feature of this body of water is that it actually a series of falls. The falls above is just one of the more gently sloping falls. The one below is more “rugged”.

Continue reading “New Year and Philippine Waterfalls”

Early Bird


As the saying goes, “the early bird catches the worm”. I say, the early bird catches beautiful sunrises. 🙂 Here are some astounding sunrises I was able to witness when I was in Dumaguete City:

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These were taken from the city’s Roxas Boulevard which has a very good view of sunrises. Hence, I made sure to book at a hotel facing the boulevard. Imagine having this view every morning. 🙂

Check out Early Birds at Daily Post.

Peaches and Friends


While waiting for our train ride to Hanoi, Vietnam in a restaurant somewhere  in Lao Cai a few days ago, my three friends decided to go out for a bit to look for peaches. They’ve been craving for peaches since we saw some in Bac Ha market earlier in the day. They asked me if I was coming, I told them I will just stay in the restaurant   since I don’t like peaches that much.

While waiting for them, I noticed that a Vietnamese girl in the next table was fidgety. She kept glancing around while holding her phone. So I asked her, “Are you looking for an electric outlet?”

She replied, “Yes. I need to charge my phone.”

I noted someone charged his phone near my table earlier  so I told her, “There’s one near my table. You can use it.”

She smiled and thanked me. She then asked me if I am from the Philippines since I speak good English. I responded affirmatively and thought finally someone guessed my nationality correctly. I was still mistaken as a Thai by some in Vietnam.

We then talked about her job, my job, her country and my country. She was very curious about the Philippines and certain places she wishes to visit. She even knew about Cebu Pacific’s piso seat sale.

After conversing for about 10 minutes, she excused herself . When she got back she offered me a peach as a sign of thanks. I almost said no but thinking there was no harm in trying to eat a peach, I accepted it. My friends arrived shortly, epmty-handed. When I asked if they were able to find peaches , they sadly replied they were not able to find a fruit vendor that sells them.

The Vietnamese girl probabaly heard our conversation so she went back to our table and gave each of my friends a peach. She said she bought a kilo in Bac Ha market and couldn’t finish it all by herself. My friends looked so happy and  enjoyed    their peaches with big smiles in their faces.

I smiled as well astounded at how the situation turned out. Fate? Coincidence? Whatever it was,  I was just glad to be able to make friends. 🙂

(Travel Diary) The Historic City of Silay


I usually try to schedule an out of town trip during summer. In the Philippines, school break falls on the months of April to May so I have come to associate summer = vacation. Now that I am working, I maintain that association by going on vacation trips during summer.

In the summer of 2014, I went to the provinces of Negros Occidental, Guimaras and Iloilo in the Visayas area of the Philippines with my high school friends, Cez, Thomas and Galembs. Our trip lasted for four days. Our entry point was Silay City in Negros Occidental, then our exit point was Iloilo.

The next travel series I will share are what I have to come to call as “BIG trip”. It stands for Bacolod-Iloilo-Guimaras.

Balay Negrense, one of the famous old houses of Silay.
Balay Negrense, one of the famous old houses of Silay.

1st stop: Silay City

Bacolod is the capital of the province of Negros Occidental but its airport is located in the province of Silay, which is about a 30-45 minute ride from Bacolod City. Silay City is one of the two museum cities in the Philippines, the other one being Vigan City in Ilocos Sur. It has been referred to as  such due to the number of preserved Spanish houses in the city. In the airport, we were even given a map which detailed where all the Spanish houses were situated.

From the airport, we decided to proceed first to El Ideal Bakery, of the most must try’s in Silay, to eat breakfast. The restaurant-bakery is is also housed inside an old Spanish residence! Continue reading “(Travel Diary) The Historic City of Silay”

The Walls of Ancient Seoul


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The old walls of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

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Living quarters at Changdeokgung Palace.

DSC02375Getting lost in Bukchon village.

Stunning photos of “Walls” at Daily Post.

Photo Essay: Baler (Part 2)


If photos and travel stories were food, mine were probably moldy already. Thankfully, travel stories never grow old! I talked about my Baler trip earlier last year. Allow me to finish my photo essay before my memories go down the drain.

Day 2 in Baler

My friend agreed to wake up early to catch the sunrises. Unfortunately, it was raining so bad in the morning so just went back to sleep. At around 9 AM, the tricycle driver who toured us around the town fetched us again for our visit to the Ditumabo falls. The falls is about a 3o-45 minuted drive from Sabang beach. From the tricycle stop, we had to trek again for another 30-40 minutes.

Waiting ares of drivers.
Waiting ares of drivers.

It was one of the most difficult treks I experienced. We literally had to cross very rocky streams. I didn’t get much photo because  I requested our driver to secure my cam. As we got closer the the falls, thankfully the trek became easier and there were fewer streams and rocks to conquer.

Hello, rocks and streams.
Hello, rocks and streams.
Easier trek.
Easier trek.

Continue reading “Photo Essay: Baler (Part 2)”

(Seoul Diaries) Discipline is a Way of LIfe


Upon arrival in Seoul last October, the first places/things my friend Me-an and I agreed to look for was food and money changer. So upon depositing our luggage in hour hotel in Jong-no, we went straight to Myeong-dong. Upon getting off the subway station, the first restaurant we saw was McDonalds. We agreed to just eat there because we were already so hungry.

Thankfully, ordering was a breeze. The staff at the counter understood basic English and I was still decent enough to understand that “in-here” means “dine-in”. Ha! I was also amazed at the presentation of the cheeseburger. It was a far cry from the way cheeseburgers are served here in in the Philippines!

After I was done eating, I immediately stood and about to head to the door when Me-an stopped me. She said I have to pick-up the wrapper of the burger and the glass where I drank from and throw it on the garbage. I looked around and realized there was a “self-service garbage disposal counter” and people were indeed throwing their own garbage. I thought what a neat practice it was, something I was not used to seeing in the Philippines.

Continue reading “(Seoul Diaries) Discipline is a Way of LIfe”

Reward


I am not into parties, branded bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry etc. etc. So, how do I reward myself?  TRAVEL!

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Somewhere in El Nido.

As this quote says: “I would rather own little and see the the world than own the world and see little of it.” 🙂

In the outskirts of South Korea.
In the outskirts of South Korea.

See how others define “Reward” at Daily Post.

That Place Called El Nido


El Nido is probably in the travel bucket list of every Filipino, if not at least on the list of hardcore travelers. And it is for a variety of reasons: it’s the Philippine’s last frontier, it’s gorgeous, it’s untouched by urbanity, etc. etc. Despite these, El Nido remains an elusive destination for most us due to rumors that it’s an expensive destination, it’s very hard to reach and so on. Is El Nido too good to be true then?

El Nido: too good to be true?
El Nido: too good to be true?

I had the chance to test how true these rumors are when  my friends and I booked a ticket to Palawan during the Cebu Pacific Independence seat sale last year. With sufficient time to save and plan, I realized El Nido is a very manageable destination for a budget traveler like me. Two weeks ago, the dream travel finally came true, and my friends and I saw ourselves in the fine white sands of El Nido.

Never say no!
Never say no!

Continue reading “That Place Called El Nido”

Palawan and the Rule of Thirds


Of the basic photography techniques, the “rule of thirds” is my favorite. It’s one, if not, the only technique I bother to familiarize, practice, and painstakingly try to polish. If perfectly executed, it can bring a photo into a whole new dimension.

For this week’s photo challenge, I did not take new photos (when did I, anyway?) but instead share some of my old shots where I tried to employ “rule of thirds”. These photos were taken during a travel to Puerto Princesa, Palawan last December.

One of my stops in the city was a butterfly garden but it was not the butterflies that caught my attention but a dragonfly. I rarely saw dragonflies now in Metro Manila. 😦

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Rarity.

Puerto Prinsesa is known as well for its beaches. I had a chance visit the islands around Honda Bay, one of which is Starfish Island where I took these:

Waiting is the name of the game.
Waiting is the name of the game.
Freed.
Freed.

The “rule of thirds” is a such a joy to practice right? I could probably post tons and tons of practice portfolio. Hah! But for more astounding photos employing the technique, check out Daily Post.

(Dumaguete Diaries) Where Bad Food and Interiors are Non-Existent


Forbes has recently listed Dumaguete City as one of the best places to retire around the world. My first reaction was, “Why?”. The city does not have the urbanity of Iloilo or Cebu. It’s not even in the level of Bacolod City yet. Apart from Silliman University, it does not  have major attractions. But then I realized, Dumaguete City is a great jump off point for so many other great places like Siquijor, the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayaw, the Manjuyod Sandbar, and so on.  And come to think it, when one retires, one may not exactly wish for a very busy city but rather for a more laid back one that is still in close proximity to relaxing places. Dumaguete fits that bill.

Rizal Boulevard: I would love to see this every morning!
Rizal Boulevard: I would love to see this every morning!

When I asked myself the big “WHY”, I also overlooked that the greatest asset of Dumaguete is its food. I can’t recall eating a bad dish in the city! In fact, I and my friend didn’t do anything but eat when we were there last September. Restaurant owners also invest in interiors.  I couldn’t find a restaurant, even small ones, with ugly interiors! I even joked that perhaps it’s one of the city government’s requirement for the renewal of business permit. Here were my case studies:

Case Study 1: Lab-as Restaurant

Situated the outer skirts of the city, Lab-as offers a variety of seafood dishes at surprisingly affordable prices! My personal favorite would have to be the baked scallops.

Out of focus shot. :(
Out of focus shot. 😦

Lovely food aside, the restaurant had a very homey feel.  There’s something about the wooden interiors that made me feel so relaxed. The staff was very accommodating goo!

Lovely!
Lovely!

Continue reading “(Dumaguete Diaries) Where Bad Food and Interiors are Non-Existent”

Angles in Seoul


Angles one can find in Seoul…

…on a cold night by the Banpo-Hangang bridge…

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..in the palaces of Chandeokgung..

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…and in the sturdy World Peace Monument.

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Angular Photos at Daily Post.

Achievements


2014 has been a remarkable  year so far. I have been able to cross out a lot of things in my bucket list. Here are some of them:

1. Fire a real gun. I got lessons from the son of a general when I was in Guimaras last May!

Bang!
Bang!

2. Have my passport stamped. I did not just get a stamp. I also had my first visa! My South Korea trip was so memorable because it’s my first overseas travel, and well…it’s South Korea and it was autumn! 🙂

<3.
<3.

3. Conquer my fear of water….slowly. I love beaches but I don’t snorkel, dive or do any sort of water activity that requires me to put my head under water. But when I was in Balicasag Island in Bohol last August, the life under the water was simply too beautiful to pass. I dipped my head in the the shallower parts of the sea just to witness what the fuss was all about. And boy, I am glad I did! 🙂

Continue reading “Achievements”

(Seoul Diaries) Sawa dee Krap


You might find that there’s a disconnect in the title of this post. It’s related to my travel to Seoul but talks about the Thai way of saying “hello”. You see, I had very interesting tales associated with this greeting when I was in Seoul last October.

Upon arrival in Seoul, I and my friend Me-an immediately braved the cold streets of Myeong-dong to look for food, the best dollar to won exchange rates, and cardigans to augment our cold weaponry. I was in  awe  not just of  the number of people in the area but the variety of things that can be bought. Myeong-dong truly lives up to its name of being one of Seoul’s premiere shopping destination!

Myeong-dong for you!
Myeong-dong for you!

After happily walking out of a small stall, my spirit was blown out of my body when a man selling bags greeted us  a with a very loud, “Sawa dee Krap!”. We just laughed  so the man smiled back. Perhaps he was thinking “I got this in the bag”. Too bad just we laughed out of shock and the hilariousness of being mistaken as Thais.

On our 2nd night, we ventured to the more artsy street of Insadong where I found out street performances and magic shows are just ordinary happenings.

Yeah. Figure it out.
Yeah. Figure it out.
Paintings for sale at Insadong.
Paintings for sale at Insadong.

While quietly checking out the stalls, we were surprised again when someone shouted at us, “Sawa dee Krap!”. By that time I figure out I really probably looked like a Thai.

Continue reading “(Seoul Diaries) Sawa dee Krap”