Stranded thoughts in the beach

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh

“Whenever I look at the ocean, I always want to talk to people, but when I’m talking to people, I always want to look at the ocean.”–Haruki Marakami

Today I read in the news that Germany wants to open Tourism soon, meaning anytime in the coming months. That would mean easing border restrictions and allow public travel vacations soon. One friend posted a story about Ostsee while enjoying some drinks buried in the sands. My neighbours wants to book for Turkey and spend 2 weeks in the beach.My new passport had never been stamped yet and it seems like I have forgotten how does it feel to be in an airplane once again…

Then I decided to daydream a bit…

Some fond beach memories are still very vivid in my mind. There are rows of dancing coconut trees, white powder sands, seafoams and waves ,crystal clear turquoise waters and lovely sunsets.Here, time goes in a very rhythmic slow motion but our faces beamed with wide smiles. Sun -burnt skin that lasts weeks to fade out but our hearts are grateful, warm and glad. Spent a long time of waiting and planning as soon as vacation days are set but once my feet touches the shores, my worries are all gone. I always thought,I don´t need much money , all I need is a bag full of sunshine and a heart eager for adventure. Because I know, a day spent in the beach is always good. As long as I am at the beach, I am happy.

Maybe I get a new Henna Tattoo, this time with the same design that I have in my mind.

Adoring the different shades of blues, teal and turquoise colors

In my childhood,I spent most of my beach holidays in my homeland. Growing up, an excursion to the beach is the highlight of our summers. From my previous works, we always have company outing and of course–it´s in a beach resort! The journey to the beach is always a long, tiring one, going through rough roads and far away villages,and the horizon seemed endless. But once I saw the beach glistening from the bright sun, the excitement begins.

Once the weather starts to cool down mid-February, my heart races, excited which beach and island would I be able to explore. As a kid, I got used to swimming in the beach where the sands are ashen black because of the volcanic minerals and rocks that have eroded from Mt. Mayon. Black sand from what I know is derived from cooled lava from numerous volcanic eruptions, perk is that it´s great for exfoliating dull skin. I never knew this before, since as a kid, we´re just used to seeing dark sands and we never thought of it as dirty. Through time, I started discovering other fine beaches, with sandy white shores, and cream shade and full of crushed corals as well.

It´s one of the most marvelous times where we can go night swimming as well and watch the moon reflecting in the pitch black waters.

“Life is a summer, full of fun,
at the beach, under the sun.”

Rugged hills surrounding the beach

The harder you seek, the greater you find” is always true. Some beaches that I have explored required a lot of commuting and travel time, especially ones that are in remote areas and can only be reached by boats or ferries. I remember discovering a secluded island in Palawan by chance. The island that we´re supposed to go is closed so we were offered another place.There´s always a mysterious beauty when it comes to hidden paradises. I wish I have all the time and money to spent to explore them all. In the north, I went to different beaches to watch endless sunsets , cave hunting and yes, made a picnic in the dunes.

” On the beach, you can live in bliss..” -Dennis Wilson

Sandcastles and dreams took my breath away in Boracay Island, Cebu,Philippines
Crystal clear waters in Kayangan ,Palawan

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Malcapuya Island, Palawan

Having an island all by yourself is quite a luxury. Without the crowds, I can admire this paradise as long as I want.Pre covid , where travelling is free and no restrictions, having a beautiful beach always comes with a price. Crowds are a hassle when you wanted a beach to enjoy freely.Stranded in this island for few hours, I don´t even have the energy to complain about life, it is just too good. I busied myself fondling my feet on the shores, counting the clouds, looking for shells and swimming. We had a packed picnic and I saw our guide climbing the coconut trees to get us some fresh coconuts to drink and enjoy. The smell of the fresh grilled fish is quite tempting. The table is set with different kinds of fresh produced seafoods and fruits.As I turned again my eyes to the sea, I just felt grateful. I wish these moments last forever…

I kinda missed the ripe mangoes, watermelons and scraping the fresh coconut which drips its juices. Probably I would have another round of swim before I decided to took more photos after my camera drained of its battery life. There are banana boat rides, camping, taking a nap in a hammock, and yes, shopping for sea shell jewelries!

In the beach, I don´t care about the time, all I know that as along as the sun is out there, I am free to enjoy. I don´t even bother to wear a watch.I feel alive while floating in the waters, staring at the different cloud formations,amazed by the green foliage and bushes. From time to time, distracted while listening to the waves splashing in the rocks. The weight of the waves which carries me to the shore and the seasalt taste in my mouth is enough to remind me all the goodness of life, because when I´m in the beach, I am free to think of the things that I refused to think.

Watching the boats sailing by

There are countless hours spent sailing and island hopping. I got excited as soon as we put on our life vests and the engine motor starts to roar. I don´t mind the water splash, I am at the beach anyway so I am bound to get wet either. The waters are too inviting, beautiful, glistening and the bottom is really inviting. Snorkeling is a must and I told myself to master my strength to adore the world down there.

What a beautiful world to explore the waters who holds such deep history of wars and trade, the old Japanese ship wrecks , legions of corals and colorful fishes…surrounded with jagged limestone cliffs.

The harder the access, the sweeter the find.”G.J Walker Smith

There were simple meals shared under the Nipa huts. Countless photos were taken from nature and laughing comes naturally.I´ve heard stories about the old tribes and folklore stories of each region, shared by the local guide who is quite humble and proud of his roots. Little did he know that they are super lucky, endowed because of living so close to this beautiful nature.

Life taught me that I should walk more on the seashores, forget wearing your shoes, you need to feel the sands under your bare feet, to lie down on the sandshore and take a nap, maybe built a castle and watch how the waves smash it, and perhaps,if I get lucky, I find a giant seashell to bring home or fill up a tiny bottle with sands…

Someday…soon.

Coron Bay, Philippines

When was the last time you went to the beach?

Have you ever tried diving through shipwrecks?

Solitary crystal clear waters

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Solitary crystal clear waters

I am a self- confessed nature and beach lover, and I find true solitude in island hopping and discovering rugged virgin lakes and beaches. I just find natural beauty of bodies of water to be totally de-stressing. I am not a savvy traveler, I am just a normal girl who wants to be refreshed, away from the busy-ness of the city, and going to place like this, leaves me both satisfaction and awe without blowing a budget.

Solitude” for me is a personal business.

It takes your whole being to be in tune with yourself. It is not the absence of noise, it’s actually the absence of distraction, and when you found yourself floating in the clear waters of the claimed ‘ cleanest lake in Asia’, it is guaranteed that you’ll find zen and calmness, naturally. Your mind gets clear. Your senses becomes alive. Literally unplugging from all negative vibes. Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan is a picture of no filters, and crystal clear waters seemed to washed away all  the toxins in my mind. When you can actually see the bottom of the lake especially when the sun is up,you can feel the good aura of the place vibrating. Visiting this place is one of the most memorable holidays I have in my life.

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Revisiting the same spot, even in a bit gloomy weather, the waters still as clear as it can be.

I have enjoyed swimming in this lake, exploring the cool, azure waters as far as I can. There is so much serenity in this place that you might think you are in another dimension. Surrounded with limestone mountains, you don’t have the right  to be ungrateful about life. I have tried snorkeling as well and seeing colorful marine life, it was a dream to see the world down there. I explored the whole surroundings by  boating,cruising through the native tribe’s area,the Tagbanuas, in between of the tiny islands and looking into their culture. There is an adjacent lake, the Barracuda,which is less commercialized in the sense that only a few visit the lake and most are armed with tanks and diving suits, making it a haven for professional divers.  Locals nearly discourage visitors to visit the place as the depth of the lake is unknown and is recommended only for professional divers.

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A fantasy island that actually exists

The surrounding mountains will leave you in awe. Everything is so calm and I felt  so secure.There’s an old tale I’ve heard that they are growing an inch every year. I haven’t tried climbing these mountains yet, but its on my list.  Large area is composed of Karst formations where swiftlets  or the Philippine Cockatoo, dwell and build their nest (edible birds nest). There are vertical limestone cliffs that reach up to 600 meters above sea level and eight (8) brackish lakes and three (3) smaller one’s that have underground connections to the sea.This place is on Tentative list in Unesco World Heritage List.

When you are in a place where there is a deafening silence, it’s  so uncomfortable and yet you never get tired of it. I still can’t believe that this fantasy island really exists. Claiming that it’s the cleanest lake in Asia or not–just look at the waters and you’ll know what I mean.

Do you love water-fun activities?

What is your ideal place of relaxation?

You might want to check out these posts if you want some inspiration from the tropical beaches and destinations I personally love. There are still so many beautiful beaches that I have been to but I haven’t made a post for them.

Coron, a fantasy island that actually exists.

What real summer looks like in Coco Beach.

Malcapuya Island : Accidentally in-love!

This post is in response to this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge |Solitude

Whole lotta Fish

 

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Whole Lotta Fish!

I can’t get enough of these Fishes in frenzy chaos…they come in herds, almost like a catastrophe ready to scare you or amuse you. Koi fishes are particularly beautiful fishes, I love them. But if you see them in volume like these, I bet you will spend quite sometime staring at them.

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More and more fishes..

If you have a time to kill, you can try counting them by their colors, if you got bored,better  just feed them..

This photo was taken from my last vacation in Philippines. These Koi fishes are the main attraction in a Nature Wildlife park called Nuvali.

 

via Daily Prompt: Fish

2,500 Feet Underground : Enigma of the Sumaguing Cave

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Underground wonders inside the Cave of Sumaguing

When I saw today’s Daily Prompt : Underground, my nostalgic memory brings me back to one of my unforgettable Backpacking adventures, my first Cave Spelunking. I can only think of the time when we explored the Underground caves of Sumaguing in Sagada in Philippines and it still brings me back the chills.

What I discovered inside the cave was beyond my expectation. When I looked at the photos I took with my old  phone, I just didn’t do any justice to it.All we have is a kerosene lamp to guide us through the darkness. All I have is determination to get through the loops and the challenging cave connection.

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Cave Spelunking in Sagada

Cave Spelunking is something that calls for an adventurous spirit. It is something for someone who is willing to explore the unknown and unveil the enigma of the destination.

I still couldn’t believe that up there in the mountains of Sagada lies an underground mystery, buried thousand of years ago, under 2,500 feet underground.Just imagine a sight of burial graves of about 500 years old before entering this. When I touched the glistening and golden formations inside Sumaguing cave, I felt for a while the cave’s mysterious aura is hovering all the visitors who dare to explore it.Everywhere you see, it’s unexplainable, how could nature be so profound, yet so beautiful.

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Feeling the enigma of the underground beauty of Sumaguing Cave

Beauty underground is rare, It is found by those who seek it.

 

Have you ever been 2,500 feet under and explored something beautiful?

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Underground

Raising my blonde kids in the Philippines | Expat-Mama in PH

Is it just a cliché  talking about Bringing Up Bébé in the Philippines?  or is it a renowned global myth that French kids eat everything? I really wonder about this.How about trading hiking the Swiss Alps for the beaches in Bantayan Island in Cebu?

Well,I am going to tell you that one French Expat- Mama juggles on pursuit of zen, balance & rumbling through the whole foods section in the supermarket and at same  time raising her Blonde  Third Culture Kids in  South east Asian culture. How on earth she’s doing  it?

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Estelea’s Blog post :  Where is Home for my Multicultural Kids?

On our next feature for Expat Mama around the World series, we go to far away South Pacific where  Estelea,an ex-Red Cross workaholic femme, enjoys the tropical sun and hopping the tricycle mania in their island life. She and her Swiss husband, Marcel, are currently based  and living the not-so-ordinary Expat life in Bantayan island in Cebu, Philippines. Together they trot this place upside down with their 2 adorable  kids, the Attilas;  (aka Maëlle 5 y.o and Léandre 4 y.o.).

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Enjoying the exotic Jeepney Ride in the Philippines

With a bubbly spirit, a pocket full of wisdom, she shares her big heart to her host country, the Philippines through her meaningful writing such as “All we need for Christmas is a roof over our heads” . Aside from her Blog, she tell us how to handle the fanatic Filipino craze on Karaoke, the not-so friendly-typhoons and the hustle of being tagged as Parisian-stage-mama to her kids at school . Here’s her very own Expat -Mama Story: Raising my Blonde Kids in the Philippines

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Stephanie on Raising Blonde kids ( The Attilas )  in the Philippines

Estelea’s background

Estelea is the woman behind Estelea’s Blog, a French Mama of 2, A yoga enthusiast and a budding teacher,a dreamer, a beach lover and a humble humanitarian rolled into one. Stephanie is  a minimalist by nature ,Vegetarian by choice, and makes it a point to have & enjoy a good kind of laugh.Everyday. Living almost 3 years in the Philippines, she still can’t believe that it’s for real that she’s living a life in the shores of the pristine beaches.

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It is more fun in the Philippines – Towering coconut trees! The backdrop of everyday Expat Life in Bantayan. Not as grand as the Eiffel tower, but actually more rejuvenating. In dire need of fresh air?, inhale, because it’s always Free.

Estelea is a  good friend of mine..from a far. Thanks to technology that we became modern-Penpals. When the Attilas gives her a break-time from being their super-mama, she wrote a whole lot of inspiring, funny, and down-to-earth posts about motherhood,Expat Life, and family oriented adventures.

Tell us About your Background

I am French, originally from Fontainebleau, a beautiful historical town by the forest, about 60km from Paris. My job from the years BC (Before Children) definitely took me to places, from Eastern and Western Africa to South East Asia, when I was working for the International Red Cross. We are now based in the Philippines and for the first time in decades, I am not working. I mean, technically…I mean, for a paycheck.

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Raising the Attilas and wearing flip-flops ( Tsinelas) all year around !

On Life as a Full time & Stay-at-Home Expat Mom 

I am actually working full-time every single day of the week, no day off, as a Stay at Home Mum. My very very significant other got a job on the little island of Bantayan and the kids and I are living some 6h away, on Cebu island.

For visa reasons, I can not work in the Philippines, and it has been pretty challenging to adjust to this new kind of lifestyle. A door closed but another open as I had no excuse to finally dwell into more significant yoga practice. And here I am, just completed a 200hours yoga teacher training, and I gave my first class just 2 days ago . My kids’s teachers are very interested in teaching yoga to their little students too, so aside from my adult classes, I am so excited to work on classes for children.

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It’s more Fun in the Philippines: Expat Life in the Beach

How  Yoga changed your life

Yoga is about exploring and discovering who you are (peeling the layers of the onions, as our teacher would say). Being kind to yourself so you can be kind to others too. Be sincere, be healthy without pushing you to your limits.Yoga to me is such a powerful vehicle of change. Through the toning of my body and my mind, I build strength and I start to believe in my own potential. My whole experience of change through Yoga is written Here.

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Journey with Yoga

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects of life.

On Philippines as a Child-Friendly  country

If you were to choose the most child friendly country in the world, Philippines would definitely be in the top 5. I never ever heard anyone complaining because my kids are loud or “slightly” active. And it is not because my little Attilas are incredibly behaving, the real reason is that people love children. Kids are everywhere, there are playgrounds in each and every mall, and they are genuinely welcome by all the staff of the resto and hotels. It’s pretty unique I must say!

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Meet the Blondie in Bantayan Island – Future Miss Cebu?

On emphasis on Family and splurging on Kid’s birthday parties

Filipinos are very family oriented, they go out on weekends all together, and I can’t recall the numbers of times we have been invited to share food just because we happened to be around. One has to attend a kids’ Birthday  party to get my point loud and clear. Their Birthday parties look like our kind of engagement or even wedding party back home. It’s grand compared to the way Europeans do. They take it incredibly seriously, there are so many clowns, presents,  games and they invite the whole neighborhood along with the whole clan. There is no way you would leave the party without a big bag of food and give away presents. It is very heartwarming for expats like us, so far from home.

On Motherhood starts at a young age

Philippines has a a very high (TFR)  Fertility rate, ( as per 2016 World Factbook CIA report) ranking at # 53 ( 3.09)  compared to France # 110 (2.08)  or Switzerland, # 188 (1.55). Of course there are lots of differences, most of the women have their kids in their 20s and many young couples drag their progeniture everywhere, day and night. My kids’ friends have watched so many scary movies my children won’t watch before they turn teenagers!

On overwhelming  Exposure of Filipino kids to all kinds of media

The media exposure is so overwhelming here. They are exposed at a very young age to me, and they learn to perform on stage from 4 years old and the beauty pageants start very early. This is maybe because Filipino kids are exposed to realities of life at a young age. Little children are up-to-date watching all the tele-novelas and primetime shows in TV where they see all the hard realities of life,including the funny side.Ask any young children in the street about the current dance craze or the reigning Miss Universe and they will answer to you blatantly!

 

 

On borderline of personal privacy

Filipinos adore “Blonde”babies and kids they treat them like dolls!  It could come as a compliment but also could come across as crossing the borderline of privacy. Don’t be surprised if people take pics of your children without asking, it is just because they find them “gwapo” (cute). Nobody is shocked but the expats actually,we in France are very veery yy protective of our privacy and that is quite a cultural shock. We don’t want foreigners to take pictures of our children, let alone selfies! But you can always get your point with a nice smile.

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Celebrity baby!

On the debilitating Karaoke culture of the Philippines

Nobody, nobody, sleeps when the karaoke is on!

It is very easy to live in the Philippines as a family. The only minus being the karaoke that is so loud, night and day. But tell you what, after a couple of years here, where singing is like breathing, the kids and I are very competing with taxi drivers when the radio plays a song we know. That’s another great thing with living in the Philippines, how easy it is to laugh for anything and everything. Very very different from Europe!

On food diversity

Foodwise …Philippines is very diversed and Filipinos are definitely meat eaters. And I am vegetarian. Voila! People really used to look at me as if I had just fell from the moon when I refused the legendary “lechon” (pork) or “lechon manok” (grilled chicken). They gave me the same look when I said my kids can’t eat pastas with condensed milk and sugar or sausages with marshmallows. When it comes to junk and sweet, you can tell that the American did not leave the best behind when the Philippines became independent . But things are – slowly changing, and there are now many vegan options that are very good! And thanks Pinterest for teaching us to make the best out of the vegetables and the fruits we can find on the market (try me on eggplants and bananas 😉 )

How is it being pregnant, giving birth and raising your child away from your home country? Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the adjustments, struggles you’ve overcome?

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It’s more fun in the Philippines : French touch in Cebu directed by Bright Expats and Action!

 My kids are 4 and 5 and it is super easy. They are little sponges, absorbing the cultures, the languages, and they don’t feel foreigners in spite of their blonde hair and their long eyelashes – that always impress Korean women!

Especially now that they can speak some of the local language. You should see them in the jeepney (local bus) talking with the driver in his language, they make every one laugh so hard!

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Bilingual kids

My daughter was born in France so when I was expecting her brother we wondered for a little while if we should get back to Europe. But I am so glad we did not. All the beautiful prenatal yoga classes, the perfect attention of the medical staff of the Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok were beyond all my expectations. Plus Thai people really care for pregnant women, I felt like a super VIP all the time! Everything was cheaper and far better quality than back home.

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Raising a  Blonde Third Culture Kid in the Philippines : So far, so good.

It is been really easy and fun, I feel it would be much more challenging if we had to relocate to Europe – France or Switzerland. We have lost our mute button a long time ago, and the kids hate wearing socks ..

 What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )

 Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

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Core values starts at home.

I wrote on this topic https://frenchtouchincebu.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/what-does-home-means-for-multicultural-kids/ and to me, it is “so far so good”. There are endless benefits of raising children abroad, they become fast learners, they adapt very fast and don’t know the meaning of racism.

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Leading by Example : This is how a lady should be treated, as shown by her Father.

So far so good because I am not sure of the benefits of this lifestyle in the long run. We are going back to France and Switzerland once a year, and it is not enough to build the kind of memories I have built with my cousins and grand parents for instance. Bless Skype, Whatassap and Viber, for sure! But nothing can replace a real big hug. That’s the reason we are planning to relocate in a country closer to home, at least a few hours by plane (direct flight!). Cebu- Paris takes us about 20h, it is definitely too far. Can’t have it all !

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

We are legends! People think we have countless helpers, a driver available 24/7 and we spend our days in SPA… And most of them have no idea of where the Philippines are!

I don’t think I am making any impact actually. Some of my friends would definitely think I am living the easy life, simply because I don’t work. They google “Cebu” and see pristine beaches. I’d rather leave them with the illusions, not mentioning the rainy season, the insane Manila  traffic, how small the expat circle is here. And that the nearer beach is some 5 hours away ..

Interestingly enough, the expat life made us reinforce our links with our family much more than with our friends – unless expats themselves.

Disclaimer : All photos are owned & of personal property of Estelea, special credit to her FB page and should you wish to use it, please mention the owner.Thanks!

Inspired by this post?

Have you ever wonder how an Expat-Mama is raising her Kids in the Netherlands? Or what about a Muslim mother raising her child in the oil-rich desert country like Kuwait?

If you want to get to know more about Estelea and like follow her Expat Life, you can add her in her Facebook page Here and follow her Expat adventures in her Instagram Here.

Are you an Expat Mama and have a unique story to share, feel free to email me at justbluedutch@gmail.com and don’t forget to follow my Expat Life in my Twitter for more stories of Expat Life like this.

 

 

 

 

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

Trekking the craters of Taal Volcano

One of my Bucket lists is to explore the crater of Taal Volcano and during our recent trip  last month in Philippines I managed to get some extra time to explore it with my backpacking friends.

While my daughter was still past asleep, I woke up around 4:30am and started our trip to Talisay, Batangas to explore the craters of Taal Volcano.

This beautiful, small & yet mysterious Volacano is  among the world’s 16 Decade Volcanoes as classified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior. Decade Volcanoes bring the attention of the scientific community due to their large, catastrophic, and frequent eruptions and their proximity to large populated areas.

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Majestic view of Taal Volcano and its dreamy crater-lake waters.

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Binintiang-Malaki viewed from Picnic Grove.

The photo above of the view of Taal volcano  where Binintiang Malaki is seen is my fondest memory of the frequent trips to Tagaytay. We always go here because it has a very nice cool weather compared to other places in Ph. It’s the summer getaway in the Southern Tagalog region. I have always thought that it was the crater, but I was mistaken. I have learned that its only one of the 47 Craters that this volcano have.Yes, 47 craters!And I thought that the crater lake is the only attraction but I was wrong.It’s so much more.

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The crater lake of Taal

A closer look at the Crater Lake 

The crater lake on Volcano island is the largest lake on an island in the world.Moreover, this lake contains Vulcan Point, a small rocky island that projects from the surface of the crater lake, which was the remnant of the old crater floor that is now surrounded by the 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) wide lake, now referred to as the Main Crater Lake. Vulcan Point is often cited as the largest third-order island (island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island) in the world, though this is also claimed to be an unnamed Canadian island located within Victoria island.

We set off to drive to Talisay to meet our tour guide-Bryan .He gave us a very warm welcome in his place and did the orientation. We were given Buri Hats, orientation and briefing on how the tour will be done. Then He brought us to his boats and we have a nice, quiet boat ride to the Crater lake.The boat were colorful , unique and is of typical of this place.

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Blue-Boats

I could see seaweeds from the clear waters of the lake and I knew from the boatman that Taal Lake is home to the only known species of sea snake that inhabits fresh water, Hydrophis semperi. The lake itself has a sulfur content that is higher than normal, and it is good for swimming.The weather is not that 100% clear when we go and I frequently hoped that It won’t rain.

As we neared Volcano Island, we had a clear view of Binintiang Malaki (Big Leg, in English). This is a large parasitic cone that erupted violently in 1707 and 1715. Today, it is dormant; but Mother Nature is unpredictable.

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After we arrived at Barangay Look,we registered to the local municipality and Tourist registration office and immediately our horses arrived with our Guides are waiting for us. It was a very nice and one-of a kind experience to horseback riding in the coarse terrain going up to the steep and hilly path going to the crater. Some people prefer to walk but it was so dusty & hot and we have elderly persons with us so we chose to take the horse with us.

The easiest way to reach the core of Volcano Island is via Daang Kastila, The trek up the crater can be a hot and dusty one via Daang Kastila which takes 45mins to 1.5 hours. Hiking on foot is relatively easy, yet there are options to get to the crater on a horseback. Pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, hat or umbrella, snack and enough water for the hike.  Be aware that although this is the easiest route to the crater, recent volcanic activity has been noted in this area

I had seen the volcanic fumes coming out from the rocks and smell the sulfur. We need to pass the 14 station in order to get into the summit and reach the crater. There are other route/treks that can be accessed by tourists . It all depends on your choices and experience. I recommend to always go with a guide for safety reasons .

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We managed to get into the crater in time and was overwhelmed by the scenic views we passed through our horseback riding.It is worth all the dust, heat , sweat, and bumpy ride to be able to see this majestic view.The skies were a bit cloudy and yet we managed to see foaming bubbles that said to be burning sulfur.

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I highly recommend to explore this place. You’ll never regret it.It is a small and yet a big nature wonder hidden.

When you visit Taal Volcano, make sure to bring water, hats and plenty of sun screen lotion. Wear light clothes for it can get very hot, it being located in a tropical country. It is most recommended you get a head start early in the morning. You can either take a hike or ride on horseback to go up the ridge and see the beautiful Crater Lake.

Our guide was very helpful,and informative and If ever I would visit Taal once again and bring friends, I would definitely go with Bryan once again and for sure I would love to bring along some eggs to boil in the boiling waters of the crater!

What’s the off the beaten path thing you have done lately?

 

 

 

Bangui Windmills in Ilocos

 

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Another highlight of my Backpacking series is the visit to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, the Northern part of the Philippines. With only a backpack and full spirit, I explored the Ilocandia region with my friend  hopping from Pagudpod ,Laoag, then finally head to Vigan.One thing that is so fascinating about this trip is how the location are close to each other that you can literally explore it within 3 days!

It was early summer and yet the heat was already intense. This region is also known for its sunny and hot temps. I have always been curious how does a windmill look like, I know for a fact that they are big , at least from what I have seen from the photos in internet, but I did not expect that Its  gigantic as these. It takes 11 average adults to hug its body together! A visit to the Windmills Farm is indeed an exhilarating and yet wonderful! These Wind Turbine system stretches a whole length of 9 km along the shores of Bangui Bay. There are 20 of them-70 meters (230ft)V82 1.65 MW  high Vestas Wind Systems,all lined up along the shoreline…standing proud, beautiful & powerful against the strong winds facing from South China Sea.

One can never miss its extremely enormous blades waving in the sky.  They are tall, white,and silhouetted against the blue sky and sea and green mountains. I remember my astonishment when I first saw these giants stood firmly like giant electric blades protecting the Ilocandia shoreline. I have seen some windmills on our recent trip to Germany but seeing the Bangui windmills up close is totally different experience. The Bangui Wind Farm was quite a sight to behold. The trivalent sea as backdrop  adds to the nostalgic charm of this place. No wonder tourists flocked on this region constantly.

In Europe, people are tired of seeing windmills because they see them everywhere. It’s so common sight out there. Nobody bothers seeing them as if they are invisible. But in Philippines,  they talk about (them) with so much pride. It becomes a bucket list for every traveler to see them.Such national pride.

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 This region is most prone to power shortages because Ilocos Norte is situated at the end of the power grid line coming from Bauang, La Union, another province away from Ilocos.

Based on the findings on the study conducted, it concluded that there are various areas in the Philippines that are amenable for wind power and that include Bangui and Burgos. Thus, this leads to the establishment of wind farm project. A Danish power firm, the NorthWind Power Development Corporation had supplied the power wind turbines which is similar to what has been in Denmark.

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Expect to be harnessed with strong winds when you visit this place. Your face would literally feel like there’s a hairdryer and electric fan in front of you for hours. This place is surrounded with low,dusty dunes, with a quaint sea views.Its a perfect place to feast your eyes with something that is not so common in other urban areas. Just like here in Kuwait, if you like to take a look at different and interesting power lines & electrical towers, you just need to have a drive along the desert.There’s a bunch of power lines with herds of camels in the background.

Remember, these windmills are not for decorative purposes for the town of Bangui.They actually provide as much as 40 percent of the power needed by the entire province of Ilocos Norte, which has a population of 600,000. So that’s an iconic one.

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One interesting fact I have learned from these windmills is that it came from worldwide effort & partnership. Bangui’s windmills are an indicator of how small the world has become. The towers were assembled in Vietnam, the rotors in the United Kingdom, the nacelles — the part that holds the blades — in Denmark. Local workers constructed the bases. The first in the Philippines & all throughout South East Asia.

If you wanna marvel on these windmills, this place can easily be reached through :

By Air Laoag International Airport serves as the main gateway to Ilocos Norte. Laoag is just a 45-minute flight from Manila; 55 minutes from Kaoshiung; 80 minutes from Guangzhou, Hongkong and Taipe; 2.5 hours from Shanghai.

By Land Various bus lines serve the Manila-Laoag route for an 8 hour drive. Ilocos Norte is just 477 kilometers north of Manila. 4 hours from Baguio.

If you wanna know more of the beauty of the North of Philippines, you can read more on my Ilocandia Backpacking adventures .

Safe travels!

Feels like Home…

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My perfect landscape..a view of Mayon Volcano

What’s the picture now in your mind whenever you think or look back from your hometown?

When was the last time you were back into your old home, or even the place you were born?

No matter where I go, I always look back to where I came from. Suddenly, thinking about the place  where I spent most of my childhood create a nostalgic feeling inside me. I remember my fondest childhood memories spent gazing at this beauty…everyday! From the time I open the window I see her. She’s our ever-present backdrop. Our ever beautiful wallpaper. She is so alluring that many have tried to climb her, some have succeed, but some have been unfortunate. Many are enamored by her mysterious perfect cone.From dusk til dawn she’s constantly changing. One day she is clothed with fluffy clouds and only her cone is shown, other times, she is totally hidden, like a shy maiden covered in veil.

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Mayon Volcano with Cagsawa ruins

I have seen her fierce eruptions. I tell you, She is one fierce ,active volcano. Despite her enigma, which has left a trail of death and destruction brought about by almost 49 eruptions in the past 400 years, her tantrums has become spectacular fireworks displays to behold.We spent the night looking at her cone tip with visible lava flowing. It was a sight I could never forget. Until now I remember those times I saw it as something exciting & yet terrifying. I would always asked my Grandmother what if the lava reaches our house? Where shall we do? But then on, I got used to this.I have heard of the tragic stories when she became so furious and left a disastrous eruption and devastation that I couldn’t even imagine. Just picture a church tower was the only visible ruins that  remained from the eruption, the ruins of Cagsawa church.

The  Cagsawa Ruins (the church tower up above in the photo )  was a lavish Spanish church before it was buried by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano, the worst in history. For almost two centuries the Cagsawa Ruins has stood as a symbol of Bicol region’s impressive landscape, rich history and the people’s strength and resiliency to face and to rise from the ravages of Mother Nature. I love to visit this park whenever I have the chance to go . It has been a long time, and now I am longing to see it once again.

And yet, even though I have seen beautiful castles, and wonderful nature from other parts of the world, Mayon Volcano is still my  Muse. She was & will ever be.

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Quitinday Hills

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.~Lin Yutang

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The view from Sumlang Lake

Never forget where you came from…Never lose sight of where you want to go.

If you have the chance, would you like to visit once again your birth place?

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Corregidor : Gibraltar of the East

Do you like seeing war ruins? or old battlegrounds?

Stories about war are never aesthetically appealing but very emotionally moving. When I watch clips about the WWII in Europe particularly in Germany ,my heart & my mind cannot comprehend well enough why things such as these happened. It’s heartbreaking.It is sad. War ruins are always gloomy . But learning from history is good. This is the reason why I made a choice to visit one important war battleground in Philippines.

This fascinating trip I have made in Philippines is touring Corregidor island. Its one-hour boat trip away from Manila. Corregidor is a small rocky island in the Philippines about 48 kilometers west of Manila which is strategically located at the entrance of Manila Bay. This island fortress stands as a memorial for the courage, valor, and heroism of its Filipino and American defenders who bravely held their ground against the overwhelming number of invading Japanese forces during World War II.Seeing this place in real  is indeed better than what I have read from books in school when we study History.

Officially named Fort Mills, was the largest of four fortified islands protecting the mouth of Manila Bay from attack and was fortified prior to World War I with powerful coastal artillery.

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A very scenic sight in Corregidor Lighthouse

Corregidor is a Spanish term which means corregir“to correct”. The Spanish lighthouse and the marker nearby, as well as the flagpole at Topside taken from a Spanish warship, are witnesses to the fact that before Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898, after the Spanish-American War, Corregidor Island used to be a checkpoint for vessels entering Manila Bay. A marker reads in part: “Corregidor Island became a part of the Spanish Crown on May  19, 1571 after its occupation by the dauntless Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who found the City of Manila. Due to its strategic position, Corregidor, which was a Spanish island for 327 years until May 2, 1898, served as a fortress, guarding Manila Bay.”

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Corregidor offers majestic views of the sea as viewed on top of the Corregidor Lighthouse

Also known as “the Rock,” it was a key bastion of the Allies during the war. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, the military force under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur carried out a delaying action at Bataan. Corregidor became the headquarters of the Allied forces and also the seat of the Philippine Commonwealth government. It was from Corregidor that Philippine President Manuel Quezon and General MacArthur left for Australia in February 1942, leaving behind Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright in command.

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Ruins of the War

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Mile long Barracks : So much history in the Ruins,if only they will speak

Although Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, the Philippine and American forces held out at Corregidor for 27 days against great odds. On May 6, 1942, their rations depleted, the Allied forces were forced to surrender Corregidor to Lt. Gen. Homma Masaharu of the Japanese Imperial Army after having successfully halted the Japanese advance on Australia. It was only two years and ten months later in March 1945 when the Allied forces under the command of General MacArthur recaptured Corregidor .

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Lying in Ruins,the tales of courageous Soldiers who fought the war

 

 

 

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So much History to tell,war ruins.

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Giant Batteries: Corregidor  Giant memoirs of War

Mortars at Corregidor’s Battery Way could be rotated to fire in any direction.

It had been firing for 11 straight hours amidst constant heavy firing from the Japanese, killing over 70% of those manning the station and seriously wounding Major Massello. He is thought to be the most decorated soldier of the Philippine campaign.

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Corregidor ‘s memoirs of War

Batteries of Corregidor : Battery Way, with its four 12-inch mortars, was constructed between 1904 and completed in 1914. It can fire up to 8.3 miles (13.135 kms) in any direction.

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Mile long Barracks Ruins

The Middleside barracks could accommodate 3,000 soldiers—1,000 on each of its three levels.

These big guns of Corregidor are now silent and the ruins of buildings, structures, and tunnels in the island tell a very moving story of a war that has claimed so many lives. A visit to this former battleground is a memorable experience especially for those who cherish and value peace and freedom.I am not a war buff or an avid historian, but looking at these ruins and learning the story behind it makes me grateful that I am a free Filipino now and I have this privilege of freedom. This place speaks so much of the brave men who fought for my country and with that I have great respect to any war-zone-torn down places.

A daytrip to Corregidor is being arranged by various tour companies. We opted to get Sun Cruises and we were not disappointed. The boat trip was a swift,calm journey. The whole program of the tour itinerary caters to everything that we needed to know & see in this island. We were taken care of very well & the sumptous lunch served in Corregidor Inn was also delightful. This trip offers a lot so if you are interested to explore this place, you can check out their packages & offers Here.

Does war memories fascinates you?

My Love affair with the Beach

If you would ask me, I prefer a trip to the beach than a tour in the city.

The tropical island place always feels like a home to me. The trees, the mountains, the crystal clear blue waters, the powdery sands,the sun, the simplicity of it ,& the carefree spirit, all working in a perfect harmony. This explains why my favorite season is Summer. Summer in other parts of the world, not in Kuwait, please.

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Feeling at home in the islands.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

`~Jacques Yves Cousteau

One of the things I look forward on a beach trip is the Island hopping where I could have all the time in the world to listen to nature’s sounds. The  sounds of the waters splashing, the rythmic sound of  paddling against the boat, and the waves  are a great way to help me meditate deeper . Ocean waves provide healing nature sounds for relaxation and sleep. Here in Kuwait where we lived 10 minutes away from the beach, It’s one of the best reason to get up , be grateful and admire its beauty. I have written so many lessons I have learned from the beach in my Beach Chronicles. When I bring my daughter in the beach, eventually it leads for her to take a nap. Ocean sounds & breeze are great for babies. One time she was just mesmerized by the sound waves and her eyes was glued to the beach. Also, for wellness of our mind, the ocean sounds are perfect for calming activities such as reading, meditation or yoga. The sounds of the ocean are also a great sleep aid that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.”

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Harmony in Nature

Why do people immediately enamored by  pictures of Blue waters  and white sand beaches?

Imagine seeing a greyish or greenish water in the ocean,how is your reaction?

Its like love at first sight.The reflection of a cloudless blue sky creates a heavenly sight against the crystal clear beach waters that makes a carpet of azure blue beauty. Blue color  emanates  sincerity,being  reserved and quiet, and something that doesn’t like to make a fuss or draw attention.This color  hates confrontation, and likes to do things in its own way. Blue waters are an enigma. I love looking through the beach waters because it invokes peace and tranquility above everything else, which promotes both physical and mental relaxation.

When I’m at the sea, my  stress is reduced, creating a sense of calmness, relaxation and order . I certainly feel a sense of calm if I lie on my back and look into a bright blue cloudless sky. It slows down my the metabolism and yet makes my heart sing. The paler the blue the more freedom we feel.

This is a glorious feeling . I feel at home. I feel in love. Always.

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Love affair with your phone  (Photo credit to Rob Timms via Pinterest)

But just like in any love affair, there comes a time when we become short sighted that we failed to see the real beauty  & deaf to hear its calling. I always remind myself to engrossed myself in nature and making my presence known to it,as much as possible instead of just being a busybody capturing photos that I failed to appreciate its beauty.

What about you, do you have a love affair with the beach or love affair with your phone?